|Governance’s new adarsh|
|Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:00|
Despite Jairam Ramesh’s order that the 31-storeyed Adarsh in south Mumbai’s Colaba be demolished, since it was unauthorised and violated the Coastal Regulations Zone Notification of 1991, the building isn’t going to be razed in a hurry. Even if you leave aside the issue of the environment ministry’s habit of shooting first and aiming later, and that several of its orders appear one-sided, there is the process of the law. So, the demolish-Adarsh order will be challenged in the Maharashtra high court, it will then be appealed before the division bench by either Ramesh or the Adarsh owners, before making its way to the Supreme Court. All of this could take anywhere between a few years and a few decades.
Whether the order stands the courts’ scrutiny is important, but assuming it does, it raises a more fundamental issue and that’s something the country’s political-bureaucratic class needs to debate more honestly. So far, in more cases than is good, government after government has legalised wrong-doings on the grounds that there are people involved, facts-on-the-ground, as it were. Sure, the colony is illegal, but where will all the people go if we declare it illegal? Indeed, in most such situations, industry associations, economists and other members of civil society (resident in India as well as abroad!) argue that India is capital-starved and so cannot afford to demolish a structure after it has come up. In the telecom sector, licences have not been cancelled on grounds that the subscribers will be hurt—in one case, the abuse of the licence was legalised on these very grounds. As long as the government of the day is willing to change its opinion in view of the facts-on-the-ground, such ‘facts’ will always get created.
Equally important is the government’s responsibility in such cases. Adarsh came up in front of everyone’s nose, banks gave loans to it, and innocents bought into the building, assuming the government wouldn’t have allowed it to come up if it wasn’t legal. In the Raja scam, similarly, the government allotted the licences the banks lent against and which the Telenors and Etisalats bought into. The government has an obligation to make good the losses suffered by others due to its sleeping on the job. Or does it have no responsibilities?