A towering symbol of greed and corruption of India’s politicians, ministers and bureaucrats standing in the heart of Mumbai will be razed, according to a Bombay High Court order Friday.

Adarsh Housing Society building in Colaba, Mumbai

The 31-story Adarsh Housing Society building in trendy Colaba area built on prime defense land was originally meant to be a six-story structure to house war veterans and war widows. But politicians and bureaucrats colluded with army officials to convert it into a 100-meter-tall building and grab most of the flats for themselves or their relatives at highly reduced rates.

Three former chief ministers of Maharashtra were questioned for their role in granting clearance to the tower. Of them one, Ashok Chavan, lost his job after it was found that three of his family members owned flats in the tower.

The high court Friday asked the central government and the Maharashtra government, whose capital is Mumbai, to consider initiating civil and criminal action against politicians, ministers and bureaucrats involved in the scam for misuse and abuse of power. It also asked the state government to inquire as to how the construction of the 31-story building was allowed. The demolition should be carried out at the expense of petitioners (Adarsh Society), the court further ruled.

It gave the housing society three months to approach the Supreme Court.

The Adarsh scam is only tip of the iceberg. Millions of dollars change hands as “land sharks” collude with politicians, bureaucrats and criminals to grab limited lands in Mumbai to raise seafront towers of glass and steel for corporates. This way, they have targeted property of closed mills in areas like Lower Parel and Mahalakshmi. The grounds where mill workers once used to gather to hear inspiring speeches by their leaders are now shaking with the thud of machines engaged in piling work.

With limited space available for construction within Mumbai, developers are now eyeing salt pans beyond the city limits in areas like Vasai, Virar and Palghar. While central and state governments are helping them by clearing hurdles in reclaiming salt pan lands for massive housing projects, geologists warn that such buildings may not have a sound footing. Such warnings are generally ignored as the city’s teeming millions struggle to find a roof under their heads.

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