Wednesday, January 15, 2014


A stinking, illegal, city of slums  

By Neeraj Mahajan & Ajit Ujjainkar

New Delhi & Mumbai:  Can you imagine a city in modern India – that even today discharges untreated sewage into a drain that eventually meets the very River that is also its main source of drinking water? Can you imagine an industrial town – not in a remote part of the country but on the periphery of Mumbai that would still take atleast four more years—i.e. by 31st December 2016 to be 100% ‘open defecation-free’? And atleast that much time to dispose of all the waste- both solid and liquid generated in a safe and scientific way? A modern city where Rs. 101 crore is required to be invested over a period of four years to ensure safe access to toilet facility to each citizen?

Can you imagine a city in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) where only about 72% of the total households have access to individual toilets connected to sewerage network, septic tanks or other suitable transfer mechanism? Almost 15% of these households still depend upon shared or group toilets. And the rest either visit public toilets or go out in the open? About 3% of the population, i.e., about 2,900 households resort to open defecation. Open defecation is common to almost all its wards.

A city that chokes and stinks in its own filth and shit -- Ulhasnagar -- a medium sized town in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) in Thane District of Maharashtra—about 58 Kilometers from Mumbai is an urban development nightmare. It may be the only 13-sq km township in the whole country that just might make it to the Guinness Book of world Records for regularizing as many as 1,40,000 illegal structures with a first-of-its-kind executive government order. (In 2006, the state passed an ordinance regularizing all existing illegal structures).

Bordered by the Ulhas River in North, Kalyan in the West and Ambernath in East and South (between 19.20°N Latitude and 73.10° E Longitude) the city of Ulhasnagar with an estimated population of 6,10,000 spread over an area of 13.34 sq. km is one of the filthiest cities in India and possibly the world. It is one city that neighbouring Kalyan, Ambernath and Dombivali may not like to associate with.  
An unhygienic city of slums, poverty, death and disease --Ulhasnagar has the unique distinction of being one of the most unplanned, corrupt, over-populated and under-developed cities in India. With an average household size of 4.55 and some 1,34,065 households the city there is already a great strain on the available land and the infrastructure services in the city as well as proliferation of slums and insanitary conditions in the city. According to an estimate close to 1,72,129 slum dwellers forms almost 28% of the city’s population. Almost 21 % of the total area of Ulhasnagar - 289 hectares is urban slum including 133 hectares of declared slum and 156 hectares undeclared slum.

As per the City Sanitation Rating compiled by the Union Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, Ulhasnagar ranks 137 and fall in the Black category which means considerable effort is required to become a completely sanitized city. Ulhasnagar managed a score of 38.34 just a shade better than 33 – a sort of danger zone requiring immediate remedial action.

At the rate at which its unhealthy belly is bulging uncontrollably – Ulhasnagar will soon bypass Mumbai and Kolkata, as the most densely populated cities of India.

Situated on the mainline Mumbai-Pune Central Rail route, Ulhasnagar is a fairly important township in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and important industrial and trading centers as far as Mumbai and Maharashtra are concerned. But that is where the similarity ends. For all practical purposes though geographically close to Mumbai –Ulhasnagar remains one of its poor, old distant and neglected cousins about whom nobody cares. Not even the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation and a handful of builders who only wish to fill their own individual pockets – even if at the cost of sacrificing the public interest.
Why then is the media silent? Why doesn’t anyone write about it--- you might ask? Well the simplest answer to this is that we are living in a world where just about everything can be bought or sold. The local media has either been pocked or silenced. There is no such thing as independent and responsible journalism in Ulhasnagar. 

Recently the town elder men and politicians have come up with a wonderful scheme to rehabilitate homeless local journalists who have been promised low cost homes. This is all it took to silence all voice of decent and set examples of democratic governance.

Ulhasnagar was born as Kalyan Military Transit Camp under the British army in 1942. After World War II, the camp moved out, the land remained vacant. So when a large number of Sindhis migrated from West Pakistan to Mumbai the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation, Government of India provided them shelter. Initially it was first called Sindhunagar because of largely Sindhi inhabitants before being renamed as Ulhasnagar in 1949.  One thing in common – throughout its history is the role of powerful contractors and vested interests trying to tightly control every development activity in the city.

Today the only difference is that these contractors, brokers and noblemen have been replaced by builders, politicians and Councilors who want their own interest to prevail and nothing that they do not want should happen in the city. Their endeavor always is to go for the ‘soft target’ dominate and encroach upon the land meant for social amenities and infrastructure. Apart from this they allow many illegal structures to come up on residential as well as change the land use from residential to commercial or from agricultural to residential.

The deep-rooted nexus between builders and politicians is responsible for the mushrooming growth of illegal structures and the catch 22 situation where despite declaring 300 buildings as hazardous Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation prefers to remain silent. Several of these buildings in precarious condition, have been duely ‘inspected and passed’ by the UMC officials. Recently two town planners – were arrested for allowing inferior constructions violating the norms.  

The story of Ulhasnagar’s neglect started from its first development plan in 1969 remained. It remained in force for 22 years till 1991 but was not implemented completely. It laid the foundation for unplanned development of the city.

Recently Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan announced a policy offering Floor Space Index (FSI) of 4 to builders having layouts of 4,000 sqm or one acre for cluster redevelopment in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. This allowed developers to build four times more. Earlier the applicable FSI was 1.33 in South Mumbai and of 1 in the suburbs. This has come in as a blessing in disguise for builders in Ulhasnagar, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayander. The noble idea behind cluster projects and higher FSI was to ease the property prices to make it affordable for people staying in slums and illegal buildings but this scheme has become a tool in the hand of the powerful builder lobby to further their own interests.

The all powerful builder-Corporators lobby is known to exploit all loopholes in the system. In 2003 the UMC is understood to have filed an affidavit in Bombay High Court acknowledging that it had only developed seven plots and the rest had been encroached and unclaimed by it. Seven years later, all the open plots have been encroached.  

The Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation recently announced its new Development Plan – which has been called “Ulhasnagar Destruction Plan’ by the local population.

The proposed plan like the hurriedly drawn redcliff line that created a wedge between India and Pakistan -- affect many shops and residential properties -- not only on the main roads but also in the by-lanes. Many residential areas have suddenly been shown as reserved for green zones. Also many industrial zones were converted to commercials zones in the proposed plan.  Similarly the land use of many existing schools has been converted into residential zones. The Proposed plan also makes a mockery of the planning process by ignoring the need to build civic amenities like schools, playgrounds, gardens, parking lots, community halls, libraries, hospitals, business centres, sewage treatment plants and cremation grounds.

Central Railway after spending Rs 25 lakh on the renovation of Ulhasnagar railway station suddenly now finds that the Railway station – for all practical purposes ‘does not exist’. It is not even mentioned in the City’s Development plan or town planning map. Ulhasnagar is one of the busiest stations on the Karjat – Kalyan route and generating revenue of Rs 2 crore per month from more than 75,000 commuters daily.

Some other peculiarities of Ulhasnagar are that only 8 MLD (29 % of actual design capacity) of sewage is treated in the STP, as some sewer line is not connected with the mains. Out of 126km only 18.1 Km (i.e,14%) roads have been developed as per the DP width. 14Km of roads are required to be developed for 100ft ROW and at present no road has been developed for 100 ft. About 97km of roads are to be developed to desired DP width. Despite high demand from vehicular traffic parking facilities are not available in the densely populated residential areas. As a result both 2 and 4 wheelers park on the main roads. There is also no truck-tempo stand.  

Similarly construction of a rail-over-bridge ROB near Ulhasnagar-Vithalwadi and foot over bridge FOB at Ulhasnagar have been hanging fire for years. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Mulayam Singh ‘gifted’ 270 Acres of prime land in Lucknow to Sahara

Shahara is not Be-Sahara

By Ajit Ujjainkar & Neeraj Mahajan

Who says Sahaha is be-sahara. He has many political friends who have always chipped in to bail him out of tight spot in the past but would they do so in the future as well is the big question?

Sahara Shree Subroto Roy, his wife Swapna Roy and other Shareholders of Sahara Group should be thankful to Mulayam Singh, Kalyan singh, Lalji Tandon and Mayawati – for the group’s phenomenal rise and growth of business in the regime of whichever political party was in power in Uttar Pradesh.

The then Chief Minister of UP CM Mulaym Singh Yadav allegedly ‘gifted’ 270 Acres of prime land in Gomatinagar locality of Lucknow behind Ambedkar Park to three Sahara Group Companies-- Sahara India Housing Limited, Sahara India Commercial Corporation ltd and Sahara India Financial Corporation ltd in 1994.

Some of these companies have a dubious track record. For instance Sahara Housing Investment Corp. Ltd which was offering 600% returns on units of Rs 1,000 over a 15-year period is under SEBI scanner. Sahara Housing Investment having an authorized capital of Rs100 crore was incorporated in 2004 and was known as Sahara India Trustee Co. Ltd (SITCL). SITCL was renamed Sahara Housing Investment Corp on 5 October and venturing into real estate, plots, residential buildings, houses/apartments and commercial office space. Around this time it also started issuing the optionally convertible housing bonds even though it is not a housing finance company and not registered with NHB (National Housing Bank). Its primary shareholders are Subroto Roy Sahara, his wife Swapna Roy and J.B. Roy who control 60% while Kumar Pandey holds 40% on behalf of Sahara India Financial Corp. Ltd. Similarly Sahara India Financial Corp. incorporated on March 9, 1993, as a public limited company has evolved into Sahara Prime City Ltd. The name of the company was changed to Sahara India Corp. Ltd, pursuant to a special resolution dated October 10, 1994… The name of the company was further changed to Sahara India Investment Corp. Ltd pursuant to a special resolution dated August 2, 2005… Subsequently, the name of the company was changed to Sahara Prime City Ltd pursuant to a special resolution dated February 11 2008.

This land forming part of khasra Nos. 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 295, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 307, 310, 311 & 312 in village Jiayamau Taluka [Tehsil] of Lucknow District  was legally allotted to “Yug Nirman Sahakari Awas Samiti” was registered U.P. Cooperative Societies Act, 1966 (Regn. No. 660). The 834 members had purchased the land directly from the farmers of Jiayamau village for residential purpose. The society members were the legal owners of the land.

That is till the Mulayam Singh government ignoring all provisions of law issued a notification for acquisition of lands of Jiyamau village vide its Gazette notification No. 2537/11—5—87---49—L.A—87 dated 26 May, 1987 [26.5.1987] under section 4 of the L.A. Act, 1894 invoking the urgency provision under 17 of the L.A. Act, 8194 for the purpose of Ujariyan Awasiy Yojna Part-5 in Lucknow. This notification never published in any newspaper and later revoked without assigning any reason whatsoever.
However when the housing society members started constructing residential houses on their plots, the Government came up with another notification for acquisition of lands of Jiyamau village vide Gazette notification No. 1328/9—Aa—3—93--7 L.A—87 dated 2 April, 1993 [2.4.1993] under section 4 of the L.A. Act, 1894. This notification was published in Swatantra Bharat on 14.8.1993.

This was allegedly a premeditated plan to help Sahara and Subroto Roy gain control over the prime land – with the blessings of Mulayam Singh.

Acting on a petition filed by Yug Nirman Sahakari Awas Samiti challenging the notification, the Lucknow High court bench ordered “status quo” to be maintained in the said lands vide W.P. No. 5219 of 1993 {LANA} Yug Nirman Sahakari Awas Samiti Lucknow Versus State of U.P. & others on 03.12.1993. 

However even during the interim order was in force the Lucknow Nagar Nigam [LMC] on 22.10.1994 transferred 130 Acres lands out of total 270 Acres of lands of Jiyamau to Sahara India Housing Limited for commercial & residential purposes on the basis of a lease deed on Rs.100/stamp paper. This amounts to contempt of court. Some of the members of the society have filed Writ Petition No. 5219 of 1993 under Article 215 of the Constitution. 

Interestingly while the government notification U/S 4 tried to invoked urgency provision U/S 17 of the L. A. Act, 1894 for the purpose of “Ujariyan housing Yojna Gomatinagar Part-5, Lucknow, the same lands were immediately transferred to subrato Roy’s company. This clearly shows that either there was no urgency or the then CM Mulaym Singh Yadav allegedly had a vested interest in the transaction.  

Another big lacuna that many people seem to have ignored is that the said 130 Acres land was transferred to Subrato Roy’s Company on 22.10.1994. Almost two months before it was acquisitioned on 23.12.1994. This makes the whole transaction illegal and void.

Not only Subroto Roy, during his tenure as CM Mulayam Singh Yadav allegedly favoured many powerful and mighty persons get plots in L.D.A. Some such beneficiaries include Madhulika Mittal wife and Gaurav Mittal son of D.K. Mittal IAS and Dr Mridula Kamboj W/O Dr B P Kamboj.  

As one of the biggest beneficiary of Mulayam Singh regime the official machinery was allegedly used to help Subrato Roy gain various legal benefits. Thanks to the good office of then CM of UP Mulayam Singh Yadav all the local authorities helped Subrato Roy to get legal relief in R.S. Nos. 308/ 1997: 312/1997; 279/1997 & 120/1998.

Later Kumari Mayawati ordered demolishion of the Sahara Saher built on 270 Acres of land but this too proved to be nothing a political stunt for public consumption. Sahara Shehr remains where it is today – though Mayawati is no more the CM.

Even during Kalyan Singh government’s tenure – good friends like Lalji Tandon were always at hand to sort out the hurdles in Subroto Roy’s path.

Moral of the story: governments may come and go the nexus money and politics will always paint the town red and blue!! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Injustice – Mumbai and Washington style!

Injustice – Mumbai and Washington style!

By Neeraj Mahajan and Ajit Ujjainkar

or the past 26 years Jyoti Atmaram Ghag – who stays with her husband and three children in Washington, USA has spent almost 12 years of time in both USA and India—chasing the mirage of illusive justice which is nowhere to be found. While both the countries claim to be the world’s greatest democracies—instead of action on her complaint, she has been subjected to intrigue, conspiracy and treats of arrest. The powerful people who allegedly murdered her father and abused her –have gone scot free. In spite of getting multiple orders from the President, Prime Minister’s office and the union Home Ministry – neither state Government nor Federal investigative agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation CBI are  registering a case.

Jyoti (in sky blue) with her family in US
If in USA, she was falsely investigated like a terrorist and faced the other end of the FBI guns, in India she and her brothers had many false case registered against them. All this because of the accused – her brother-in-law ACP (retd) Vilas Arjun Shirke was a former encounter specialist with influential contacts in Mumbai Police. Shirke even allegedly misused a power of attorney to launder his ill gotten wealth through her Dena bank NRI account # 114. She was not allowed to withdraw the power of attorney or close the account. Even the complaint against this to DG Anti Corruption, Mumbai police J D Virkar is gathering dust.

At the heart of the matter is an attempt to usurp her father’s property worth crores and deny the legitimate rights to some of his legal heirs. 

Atmaram Raghojirao Ghag with grand children on a visit to US

Her father Atmaram Raghojirao Ghag 86– a retired Mumbai police officer& her 2 brothers Manish & Paresh were being abused under the misuse of 498A, the conspiracy allegedly hatched by his daughter in law Sushma, his daughter Meena Vilas Shirke, a high court advocate, some Thane court officials & Vartak Nager Thane Police officials in July 2001. Her father couldn’t survive nearly 17 months of physical, emotional torture and abuses, had abusive death in Jan’2003. Almost a decade after his un natural death-- his two sons and a daughter – continue to suffer pain on account of the corruption in Maharashtra Police and Indian legal System. His daughter Jyoti Ghag moved to US in June 1987 and took American Citizenship in 1996. But instead of solving her problems – she finds herself torn apart -- one foot in Mumbai, one in state of Washington.

The second phase of this tale of miscarriage of justice started in June 1999 when Anti- Corruption Branch Mumbai refused to accept her written Complaint against Mumbai Police officer Vilas Arjun Shirke and Ketan Shriram Ghag, Advocate. It took her four years to get Hon. Home Minister R. R.Patil to issue an order (# 3527/ DTMS TC/APP/31/2005). But Thane CP D. Shivanandan and the Vartak Nagar Police allegedly stonewalled the case. Likewise in Anti- Corruption Branch right from DG J.D. Virkar to Pradnya Sarvade and Ashutosh Dombreeveryone kept delaying investigation against Vilas Shirke.

In 2008, though the Maharashtra DGP A.N. Roy ordered an investigation vide order # DGP /PA/ CB/2008/50 June 2008- Dec 2008- Thane CP Anil Dhere, DCP Shintre, DCP Bhujangrao Shinde, Vartak Nagar thane in charge police inspector Bajirao Bhosale, other Vartak Nager police officials like Crime Branch officer Jagtap and Sub-inspectors Samajik Surksha Kaksha mrs.Suvarna Shinde, PI Mrs.L.S. Donde, PSI Smt. Meghana Burande and PSI Mr. Sawant ensured that status quo was maintained.

Instead they registered an FIR 145/2008 and arrested Paresh Ghag allegedly on the basis of a factitious complaint filed by his own sister. The lid on this ‘fake’ complaint was blown when Jyoti herself flew down to India within 48 hours of Paresh’sarrest& brought him out of Thane jail after proving his innocence to Thane small Court Judge Mrs. Bharti Kale & bringing Thane Police officials’ illegal & inhuman practices on the record of the said court. The angry Thane Police filed one more false FIR 349/2008 undertheft charges, this time it was against Jyoti.

The Maharashtra and Goa Bar Council Chairman Rajiv Patil refused to entertain her complaint D.C. # 105/ 2009 against unethical and corrupt behavior of advocates Deepak Naik and Ketan Shriram Ghag.TheBar council secretaryVarsha Rokade wrote to her saying that the Bar Council Of Maharashtra & Goa was not a public authority coveredunder the Right to Information Act.Similarly after the Mumbai Anti- Corruption office refused to act against retired Mumbai ACP Vilas Shirke -- one of theirown officers she personally met the Mumbai Income Tax Chief Commissioner Debabrata Das and Sandeep Dahiya, IRS. That was the end of the story as till date she does not know the status of her complaints.

Yet another shock awaited her when the Thane Police Department &Thane District Court gave her in writing that the entire bunch of related complaints &documents in case #1410/ 2001 had been lost. So around July 2009 she approached the Mumbai High Court Chief Justice Hon. Swatantra Kumar &MaharashtraChief Minister Ashok Chavan. He ordered to transfer the investigation from Thane Police to Mumbai Crime Branch # Mu/Ma/ Sa/09/ 57963. Almost at the same time DGP S.S. Virk (order # DGP/PA/GENL/2009/164) asked Mumbai Crime Branch C.P. Shivanandan and Joint CP RakeshMaria to look into the matter in urgent manner.

However instead of recording her statement and registering an FIR against theguilty police officers in the Mumbai Anti Corruption office- the Mumbai policemen allegedly embarked on a deliberate cover-up operation and under one pretext or another refused to meet her – knowing fully well that she was to leave India three days later around 9th July 2009.

In around August 2009- without any obvious reason DCP Mr.Dombre, DCP Mr. Satam and DCP Mr. Raja Pawar working on the anti-corruption case werereplaced one after another. The greatest irony is her father’s murderers & her brothers & her abusers are still roaming free.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Meanwhile the Indian Embassy officials in Washington D.C. allegedly fed false information to U.S. Homeland security department about Jyoti Ghag. She was accused of being a terrorist planning to commit suicide outside the Indian Embassy.Jyoti filed a petition in the Bombay High Court before Chief Justice Mohit Shah. The Ministry of External Affairs accepted their wrong doing in Chief Justice's Court in Mumbai and issued an apology letter to Jyoti Ghag and US Homeland Security Department. However instead of handing over that apology letter to Jyoti Chief Justice Mohit Shah allegedly threatened Jyoti in open court stating that if she doesn't surrender her compensation request, he will keep the apology letter in his custody. Jyoti filed a complaint against Shah before the President of India in October 2012. The President of India ordered the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra to investigate her complaint in a time binding manner. 

Till date noting is known about the outcome of this letter.

Meanwhile Jyoti has come out with a book Jyoti@CorruptionRoko - a truly inspiring account of a loving mom, wife and a caring daughter, sister who defies all odds against the police and Judiciary to get justice. 

If its a crime to ask for the law to take action against those those who murdered her father, abused her and her brothers-- she is guilty.