Redevelopment: Ghost-like Politicians Protecting Builders
Mumbai, 14th July, 2016: I would not have believed it if I had'nt seen it with my own eyes. For many months, my client Tukaram Sutar had been insisting that the Jogeshwari Municipal Corporator Ujwala Modak was giving political support to the non-performing redevelopment builder and former managing committee members of his cooperative housing society... but I was skeptical. I asked him, "Where is the evidence? Has this corporator ever spoken or written letters to us, or interfered in our society's matters? No!" However, three days ago, when I found myself confronting Ujwala Modak at the society's hearing at the office of the Deputy Registrar of Cooperation (K-East Ward), Wadala, I realized that Mr Sutar was right. At the hearing, Ujwala Modak's conversation with Cooperation Department officials indicated that she had been meeting and phoning them for favourable orders.
After our heated argument, corporator Modak helped the society's chairman Mrs Rajshree Pariyawala register a police complaint – a non-cognizable offence (NC) – at Wadala Truck Terminal police station, alleging that I had "looked at her with anger". (It's funny that cops register such frivolous complaints under political pressure, but it's also scary. What, men can't even argue with women now without fear of a police complaint?!)
More info about that incident in my blog.
"What is wrong if I am present at Deputy Registrar's office? So what if I am a corporator? Don't I have a right to go to any government office?" Corporator Ujwala Modak argued. I countered: "These proceedings are a society's internal matter. Your presence here exerts undue influence on government officials to pass orders favouring the side you are representing, because you are a well-known political personality from BJP, the ruling party. Orders are not passed on merits of the case. Also, the other side will feel cowed down in your presence."
Jogeshwari Majithia Cooperative Housing Society is fighting an uphill battle against managing committee members who, together with the builder, are holding the building hostage. Corporator Modak's political influence has caused Deputy Registrar to pass perverse orders and perform actions designed to fail (described in this complaint to Secretary of Cooperation, Mantralaya).
Jogeshwari Majithia CHS is not an isolated incident. In the name of being available and helping their constitutents, our municipal corporators/councillors, MLAs and MPs are showing their faces at various administrative and quasi-judicial proceedings. Their names are never noted in the roznama because the practice is to write down only the names of the people who are supposed to be present e.g. society members, managing committee members, authorized representatives like myself, advocates, etc. Government offices are not required to name all those present, if they have no bearing on the case. So, these politicos are allowed to speak, and they are heard very respectfully by the authorities, but no written records are created... but favourable orders are passed.
The hidden hand of a municipal councillor, MLA or MP in various projects is the black-market economy of power and influence. Concerned people accept it as natural, and it is an open secret within the administration. But nobody wants to talk, nobody wants to name names, and nobody wants to allege corruption. Cloaked by silence, our politicians wield their ghost-like influence in the corridors of power.
Chalo, let's not allege corruption; after all, where is the evidence? Ujwala Modak would want us to believe that she has not accepted any bribe in cash or kind from Tanna Realtors or anyone else. So let's believe her. Let us believe that she spent four or five hours on Monday travelling to and fro between Jogeshwari and Wadala for honestly serving the people of her constituency. Very kind of you, Madam!
Still, the question remains: Is this what our elected representatives are supposed to be doing? Do lakhs of voters repose their confidence in our elected representatives, and give them powers and privileges, so that they can spend their five-year term doing such invisible seva -- being heard at administrative hearings without leaving a trace? Bhai wah! Such public sevaks are very useful friends to have, especially for every builder, road contractor and businessman!
ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY