Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dont demolish Adarsh

Its crazy to think that in a resource and capital starved country, we are actually going to demolish and destroy real assets.

Agreed Adarsh is a symbol of corruption. It's been built in violation of several environmental rules. I also understand that its important to send a strong message to those others who are lurking in the dark waiting to do their own dirty deeds. But honestly, should we not explore other options?

Here are some reasons why demolition is not even ethically correct:

1) The government and powers that be were complicit in this act of treachery. The government cannot demolish and purge itself of all the guilt. It's important to correct the system that led to this treachery rather than go around un-doing everything that this system did. An example comes to mind. There is a provision in the Motor Vehicles Act which prohibits putting dark films onto car windows. This provision has been there since the beginning of the Act.....the authorities that be, ignored it forever......then they woke up suddenly one day and said all cars must remove the films. Now this is ridiculous. People spent money because the authorities were turning a blind eye for so long. Even in law, there is a concept that precedents can be treated like law, even if they are not part of the law. At the very minimum, enough time must be given to people so that people get a chance to get at least some returns on their spends. A future date should be set - maybe 5 years away - after which dark films may be disallowed.
2) There are many people who own flats in Adarsh and who have done nothing wrong. Not all occupants are connected to the powerful.....many of them are ordinary home-owners who have invested their hard earned money and had no way of knowing what was going on. I have bought a flat myself, but apart from the statutory legal check (which is done mostly by banks), there was no other way for me to know if the builder was upto some hanky panky. If something was wrong, the authorities should have blocked the plans before the building was constructed. Its simply not fair that the authorities choose to act after the crime is done.
3) There is a real practical problem with this decision. Why single out Adarsh for this treatment? Because its become a high profile case? Why not scrutinize every single building in this country? If you did that, you would have to demolish every single building in this country. Is it fair to let them continue to exist? Or will they also be demolished at a future date (maybe), if somehow that case became high profile?

I also feel that these are real assets. On the one hand, we do everything to encourage savings. High savings rates are required to have high levels of investments. And yet, here we are demolishing real assets. I simply cannot agree with this decision.

The key message to send is that the ones who made money are severely punished. For starters, let them lose their investments. Investors understand risk. No one ever will think of investing in similar plans if they know their investments are so risky. Second, criminally prosecute the wrong doers. No one should escape the punishment. Not only because these people have flouted the rules.....but because they have shamed our country and spread so much gloom and doom all around. That's the real reason they must be punished.

At the same time, we must have the maturity to protect the real people. We cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater. We cannot "over-correct". We must be able to find out who's benefitted wrongly and who's genuine. That's tough to do.....and that's why Jairam Ramesh just wants to take the easy way out.

The real truth is that the Congress wants to now appear "holier than thou". They want to somehow stem this tide of corruption charges that appears to be unstoppable. The real truth also is that they want to somehow make sure there isnt a wider investigation into the thousands of other similar cases that exist all around us and which may again lead to them. That's the real truth.

So what should be done? All the illegal floors should be taken away by the government and used for some social good. Maybe it can be given to a school.....this city is so starved for good school buildings. Maybe it can be sold afresh to a commercial hotel chain so that the government now realizes good money, which can then be put behind environment conservation.....there is so much that can be done.

But under no circumstances should real assets be destroyed. Its as criminal as allowing Adarsh to come up in the first place.

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