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Govt to tear down Adarsh apartments at heart of graft scam
NEW DELHI |
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The environment ministry on Sunday ordered the demolition of Adarsh Housing Society, an illegal Mumbai apartment block that has become a symbol of political corruption, as the country's government tries to tackle mounting graft allegations.
The demolition order is the first direct step by the government towards addressing a series of corruption charges.
The Mumbai block is at the centre of the Adarsh scam, one of four major scandals that have damaged public confidence in the Congress party, alongside a $39 billion telecoms scandal, a cash-for-loans scam and charges of corruption in the running of October's Commonwealth Games.
The Adarsh Housing Society was built to house veterans and widows of a 1999 war, but a probe found politicians, ministers and bureaucrats had been granted apartments cheaply, leading to the sacking of the state's chief minister, a Congress party member.
The ruling Congress party continues to reject opposition calls for a parliamentary enquiry into the telecoms scam, and the central bureau of investigation has failed to pin graft charges on senior officials in the Commonwealth Games executive.
"Out of three options the Ministry has decided to remove entire structure," an environment ministry statement said.
"It is unauthorised and no clearance whatsoever under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991 was obtained."
Former Maharashra state chief minister Ashok Chavan, a member of the ruling Congress party, was forced to resign from his post in November after it emerged that three of his relatives had been given apartments in the 31-storey building.
"Any other decision would have diluted the strong precedents that have been set in judgments of the Supreme Court," the statement quoted Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as saying.
The society's lawyer told CNN-IBN that the order was "unfair" and that he would challenge the demolition ruling.
Opposition protests about the corruption allegations have paralysed parliament since November, delaying crucial economic reforms and undermining public support for Manmohan Singh's ruling coalition, which is also under pressure for failing to control rapid inflation and price rises.
A recent poll showed voter discontent with the ruling Congress party would result in a loss of 40 seats at a general election, which would threaten its majority and damage its ability to form a working coalition government.
(Reporting by Henry Foy; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)
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