The value of Adarsh
'Adarsh' in Hindi means principles and values. Today, however, it signifies the lack of it! With the Adarsh housing scam in Mumbai bringing forth corruption and greed of the highest powers, the author tries to look into the
changing adarshes involved in the whole story.
In economics, we have a concept of value. Rudimentary conceptions equate value with price, i.e. the value of 1 Kg of rice is the money it would fetch in the market. It took me some time to differentiate between value and prices. Prices or monetised measure of value of any goods or services is just one way of quantifying value. Unfortunately, we often end up using this measure as the only measure of valuing anything or/and everything.
In Society, we have some different sets of values, pertaining to ethics. Traditions, beliefs, social sanctity etc make up a set of values. Unfortunately, often these are sacrificed for the market determined monetised values.
Corruption is often described as loss of social values. The event of bribing someone leads to decay of the values of honesty, integrity etc. But to think it in another way isn’t the fact that you are willing to pay something ‘extra’ as bribes denote that you actually value what you are getting more than what the official price demands for it? Or, to put it in another way; if following some (illegal) practices can help achieve something extra, beyond what you would be able to get under normal conditions, does the value of the final result increase, or decrease given that you have used illegal means?
To put the second point in perspective, take the case of Adarsh Housing Complex of Mumbai as an example. Originally it was planned that a 6-storey housing complex is to be developed for widows and families of those army men killed during action, most notably during the Kargil War. The six storey original plan ended up in being a 31-storey residential tower!. It’s a concrete and mortar build physical structure which has taken crores to build, and are worth more if sold! So what about the values involved?
In terms of sheer real estate valuation, it is enormous. Current realty rates in Colaba region in Mumbai are over Rs 30,000/sq. ft. 21 storeys thus translates to some sizeable worth! Moreover, land is at premium in this region. The plot at which the entire housing complex has been build is actually Indian Army’s property. Moreover it comes under the coastal region thus under the purview of the Coastal Zone Regulation, which, in layman terms, means further restrictions and strict norms for any constructions within the area. Building such a huge residential complex in such prime area is simply not possible under normal circumstances. The problem lies in the other set of values forgone in the process. Permission to build the housing society was sought on the basis of public sentiments about martyrs for the nation. Army land was given for this building under the pretext that this is going to benefit families who have lost lives during service. Sentiments soon made way for sheer opportunism, when army and navy chiefs allegedly issued NOCs in exchange for flats, or rather memberships in the housing board. This soon spilled over from the army to the civilian authorities. State level ministers and bureaucrats all joined in the bandwagon. In that sense, 21 extra storeys denote not only corruption, but also the level of hurdles the entire project had to undergo. Accommodating more and more beneficiaries stretched the building even higher!
Things hence got so murky that the ministry of Defense called upon the CBI to probe an enquiry. The Army, unlike many other institutions has their own strict enquiry procedures. The institution itself can only carry out Court Marshall(s) of officers for misconduct, as civilian laws don’t apply to army men. However, the MoD itself suspects involvement of numerous retired personnel, who cannot be tried now given that they are retired. Thence, the MoD’s request to involve the CBI is a proof enough that the rot runs very deep and wide. Thus, ‘values’ that the Indian Army is famous for have taken severe beatings.
The civil administration in our country has already started taking actions. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra was removed as part of the allegations. More heads might just roll after this. Public outcry over the issue has even brought forth the preciousness of social ‘values’ to the forefront. Numerous land scams have been experienced in our country so far but such prompt actions were rare until now. But those in power must have realised the importance of ‘values’ perhaps, hence the promptness.
Amidst all this, the Environment ministry has shot a letter to the Adarsh Housing Society, as a show cause on the numerous irregularities, asking for an explanation as to why the building must not be destroyed, which brings me back to the original question: what is the value of the Adarsh building?
The building is not only the product of greed and sleaze, but also that of resources and labour. It is in that sense an economic product- that entailed numerous material inputs, labour hours, and generating income both directly and indirectly through multipliers. Now that the building is almost complete, to ask for its destruction has triggered strong reactions from many quarters.
Many argue that this building can be used for many good purposes, and that the Environment Minister’s ‘threat’ to destroy the building was an over reaction. Some say the flats should be sold at proper rates, whereas others feel that all the flats should be allotted to bereaved families of army personnel only. Another set of people suggests converting it to hospitals or some social welfare facility. All in all, majority of people feel that a building, which has already been build, should not be wasted.
However, given the numerous environmental norms that the building has flouted, should it be allowed to stand there? Would removing those who corruptly built this
building atone for the wrongdoings? Isn’t allowing the building to stand despite all violations itself an endorsement of violating legal procedures? In our quest of standing up for moral values, are we not compromising on them when we say the building should stay, but used for some other purpose?
Are we, as a society, even in our attempts to uphold social values, somehow tempted by material values? Or would destroying the materially tangible building for some intangible ethics laws and values be impractical or stupid idealism which would lead to a great wastage?
May I ask - how valuable are