Sunday, March 25, 2012

ROMF / Lok Housing Scam

  There is a mail regarding my earlier job, trying to smear and throw muck. While, I recognize every individual's right to do the same, I feel very violated and dirty within. That the mail was sent by someone who knows me, but who did not feel it worthwhile to ask me nor clarify has left a poor taste. But, then once I joined the IAC movement, I should have anticipated that there would be attacks - sometimes from foes and sometimes from friends :). This Diggy Raja kind of muck throwing is like a chinese whisper with the person using innuendos, lies, half truths and twisting facts. What do you defend against? Noone is around, noone is found and one is left sword fighting in the air. He has thrown mud, now one has to keep on defending and clearing off, but the dirty marks on your reputation always remaining.  But, Annaji said "Lathi, Goli khana hai". So, let it come :). Just stating things as I know it.

I was an independent Director in Lok Housing till I resigned in Aug '11 and also the secretary of Remaking of Mumbai Federation (a NGO) where also I resigned in Aug '11, due to my involvement in the IAC cause. 

It was in end of 2006 that my uncle, Lalit Gandhi asked me to join his company Lok Hsg to work on an idea that he had for redevelopment of Mumbai inner areas using the cluster process. He had been moved and inspired when over 4 buildings fell and around 100 people died in this collapse. Overall there has been over 700 deaths due to the collapse of some of these thousands of buildings, which were very old. Also, redevelopment of individual buildings was a bad idea, because it led to tremendous strain on infrastructure and only encouraged few feasible buildings' redevelopment. At the time of getting this offer of a job, I was working in the social sector and was involved with many NGOs for betterment of life at the policy level. I looked on this offer to propagate cluster development as the only solution to save Mumbai and as an opportunity to do good work at the grass root level and change the lives of lakhs of people.

So, an NGO called Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF) was formed, and i became its hon secretary. Its purpose was to propagate the concept of holistic planning of Mumbai. We suggested that inner city of Mumbai be planned in an integrated and holistic manner by a public private corporation called City Planning and Monitoring Company (CPMC). With the help of master planners, the city should be divided into various clusters and Sector-by-Sector Development Scheme (SSDS) should be created by auctioning each sector and CPMC should plan and monitor the implementation of the same. Many eminent people and groups joined the federation and later some left due to variety of reasons. We used the process of advocacy with the urban development and Municipal corporation for holistic and integrated urban development. This led the UD to suggest to us to take up one sector and show us the efficacy of the model that we were suggesting. RoMF used mass awareness and debates, as well as presentations with various stakeholders, to partially convince them of the proposal. As a result of this, the government came out with its Housing Policy which talks about the cluster development concept and also DCR 33(9) for cluster development. This NGO was funded by Lok Housing as its Chairman Lalit Gandhi was a passionate proponent of good, international development of Mumbai. He used to say "Mumbai at the crossroads - disaster or a world class city?

To show the efficacy of the development model, we had to demonstrate a sustainable commercial model. Thus, a commercial company, Remaking of Mumbai Housing Infrastructure and Finance Ltd (ROMHIF) was formed. It worked with the tenants and all stakeholders to get their consents for redevelopment by ROMHIF in 30 acres properties in Chira Bazar. This was in end of 2008. The DCR 33(9) was not yet passed but was being discussed. In absence of a proper format, ROMHIF took the consents of the tenants on plain paper. After the DCR was passed, ROMHIF approached the High Power Committee (HPC) for a Letter of Intent (LOI) to redevelop this 30 acres. This was not accepted as the HPC said that the consents was not in the correct format. ROMHIF argued that there was no format then, nor was there one now. While the HPC appreciated our work and concept, it did not issue a LOI. 

ROMHIF needed to purchase buildings and re-present a case for redevelopment and therefore it made a Joint Venture development agreement with Unity Developers to redevelop the area. ROMHIF asked for a certain amount as premium for the works that it had done from Unity, including the plain paper consents. While earlier Unity was interested in 30 acres redevelopment, it changed its view to redevelopment of 5 acres only. This was a legitimate business deal, for ROMHIF to charge for intellectual or intangible activity.

Along with Unity, ROMHIF again approached the HPC and convinced them that to go back to so many tenants for the consents would be difficult. HPC was requested to issue a provisional LOI, so that within a period of 9 months,  70% consent of the tenants in the right format would be obtained. The HPC found this reasonable and forwarded to the UD. The UD stated that while the consents were in the name of ROMHIF, the new application was in the name of the Joint venture company and asked the HPC to reply on their queries and suggested that ROMHIF be given just 3 months to get the consents in the correct format.

I have read some mails which says that ROMF took the consents and ROMHIF took commercial advantage.  All consents were taken by ROMHIF only. 

I still believe that this was a great project and would have changed the face of Mumbai and saved the lives of many. I also believe that this was legitimate activity, no tenants were misled, no corruption was indulged in, no profits were received, a good housing policy and regulation was introduced. If ever the project sees the light of day, it would be a great day for the city.  I felt sad to leave the Federation, due to my preoccupation with the India against Corruption movement.

I have offered to discuss and explain each and every aspect of the project and its legitimacy to anyone who would like to know the truth.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The present situation in the movement

Was reading the fifth letter to friends by SILO, one of the greatest thinkers and am recreating some excerpts from the same adapting to the present status of our movement

Their banners were waving as the echoes of their glorious calls to struggle rolled across the scene. And upon seeing this I thought of just how much good will, risk, tragedy, and striving, all moved by heartfelt convictions, had been lost along a road leading to the absurd negation of any possibilities of transformation.

Thus, today it is imperative to redeem human courage, inspiring people’s ideals in a new and possible direction.

1. The Most Important Issue: To Know If One Wants to Live, and in What Conditions

Today, millions of people struggle simply to subsist, not knowing whether tomorrow they will be able to surmount hunger, disease, and neglect. Their needs are so dire that whatever they undertake to escape their problems only further complicates their lives. Are they to do nothing then, and remain in a state that is really only one of postponed suicide? Are they to attempt desperate measures? What sort of activity, what risk, what prospect are they prepared to face? What are those, who for economic, societal, or simply personal reasons find themselves in extreme situations, supposed to do? Always, the most important question is to know if one wants to live, and to decide in what conditions to do so.

2. Human Liberty: Source of All Meaning

Today questioning whether their present circumstances can form a way of life in the future. Even those who prefer not to think about their situation, or who turn this responsibility over to others, are still choosing a way of life.

3. Intention: Orientor of Action

We are born into conditions that we have not chosen. We will have to choose among conditions, among needs, and we will do so according to our intention and the vision of life that we propose for ourselves.

4. What Should We Do with Our Lives?

We exist in a particular society and in relationship with other people, and our destinies are interwoven with their destinies. If we believe that at present everything is fine,then we need only forge ahead. If, on the contrary, we think that we live in a violent, unjust society that is filled with inequity and assailed by unremitting crises related to the dizzying changes in the world, then we will reflect at once on the need for profound personal and social transformations.

And the worst of it is that by our inaction we open the door to even greater inequity and injustice. Forms of discrimination and abuse long thought overcome are resurfacing with greater virulence than ever. The option they are following with increasing single-mindedness is to focus only on their own lives, ignoring the difficulties of others and everything that is taking place in the social context around them.

We prefer to focus on the superficial game of the powerful elites, the famous, the formers of opinion. We object to the actions of the mass media controlled by economic interests, instead of dedicating ourselves to exercising influence in the smaller media and taking advantage of the many openings for social communication.

Basically, all of this happens to us because we believe we are defeated and that we have no other recourse than to nurse our growing bitterness in silence. And we call this defeat "dedicating ourselves to our own lives." Meanwhile, "our own lives" accumulate contradictions as we lose touch with the meaning of and any capacity to choose the conditions in which we want to live. And of course our previous disappointments keep us from acting as protagonists in this process of transformation.

5. Moral Consciousness and Short-Term Interests

In our rush to escape we will sacrifice every value and all meaning, because our sole focus has become our own immediate benefit.
To avoid such difficulties, we shun any commitment that could draw us toward extreme situations, but of course events themselves will necessarily put us in positions that we have not chosen. The choice between unifying actions – those with meaning – or contradictory actions dictated by immediacy, is inescapable in every situation in which the direction of life is at issue.

6. Sacrificing One’s Objectives for Circumstantial Success: Some Habitual Errors

Ridiculous Machiavellian schemes, personality clashes placed above mutually agreed upon goals, and authoritarian behavior of every stripe fill volumes of history books, as well as our personal memories.

7. The Kingdom of the Secondary

Present circumstances are such that accusers of every stripe and description adopt a prosecutorial tone and demand explanations from us, acting as though it is we who must prove our innocence to them. What is noteworthy is that their basic tactic lies in exalting all that is secondary, and as a consequence obscuring the primary questions.

Some journalist or opinion maker will make everything somehow suspicious, or demanding that we "take a stand" on today’s many burning questions of all sorts. Of course, they are never lacking for some clumsy accusation, to which it is assumed we must respond, and in superficially setting the context they bandy about words charged with double meanings as they manipulate contradictory images.

What is important to remember is that those who choose to locate themselves in a faction opposed to us have every right to have us explain to them why they are in no condition to judge us and why we, on the other hand, are fully justified in judging them. They need to realize that it is they who must defend their position against our objections

A great many progressive people are taken in by this trap, failing to understand very clearly just how their receiving this abundance of apparent "news" in practice leaves them more bewildered than accurately informed.
While the previous commentaries on these expressions of the kingdom of the secondary do not really contribute anything new, it is nonetheless worthwhile from time to time to alert those naive activists who, in trying to communicate their ideas, have yet to realize just how strange is this kingdom of the secondary in which they have been interned."