Illegal renting of government flats busted in Mumbai

Sunday, February 15, 2009

MUMBAI - The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday said it has unearthed a large-scale renting out of central government staff houses at prime locations in Mumbai to unauthorised occupants by estates department officials.

Two officials of the Directorate of Estates (DoE) - Madan Mohan Banerji, assistant estate manager who holds the additional charge of estate manager, and Chengam Prakash Raman, an office assistant - have been arrested, said CBI (West Zone) Joint Director Rishiraj Singh.

The two men had established a network of property dealers, including two policemen, to rent out government staff accommodation to unauthorised people in a city where housing is in acute shortage, Singh said. Nearly 40 percent of those in Mumbai live in shacks and shantytowns, according to an estimate.

Singh said the arrested officers generated fake applications for allotting central government staff quarters to private individuals after raking in huge sums of money from them. They took the help of estate agents acting as touts in their operation, Singh said.

The Directorate of Estates, attached to the ministry of urban development at the centre, is vested with the administration and management of office and residential buildings of central government departments in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. It also looks after similar work in Shimla, Chandigarh, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Nagpur.

The accused, instead of allotting the residential quarters to the bonafide central government staff, illegally rented these out to private parties in return for bribes, according to Singh.

The racket came to light when an agent filed a complaint of extortion against Raman, alleging that Raman had demanded Rs.30,000 from him. ‘The same agent earlier used to help procure prospective customers who were allotted the official quarters for a year by Raman,’ Singh said.

Raman made sure to collect the full rent for a year in advance and paid off two months’ rent as commission to the agents. He shared the balance 10 months rental amount - which has not been disclosed - with Banerji.

There are 8,500 central government staff quarters mostly in prime areas of Mumbai, which are in high demand and fall in the category II and III.

Raman also had two local police constables on his payroll who helped threaten the illegal occupants and extracted money from them after completion of the one year period, Singh said.

The two DoE officials also managed to sub-let two shopping centres belonging to the central government at Antop Hill, central Mumbai, and collected bribes for illegal construction activities and encroachment indulged in by the unauthorised occupants of the government quarters.

Alarmed by the racket, the CBI has now launched investigations to detect similar goings-on in Pune, Nagpur, Goa and Gujarat, Singh revealed.

Filed under: Business, India

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