Thursday, July 05, 2007

Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi
How Govt helped family build Hostel Empire

The Congress Governments at the Centre have helped UPA presidential nominee Pratibha Patil build an empire around two different trusts run and controlled by her family members over the past three decades.
The vast empire includes four hostels for working women, all financially assisted by the Centre, an engineering college, a sugar factory, a Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a school, and a bank that went bust.
Incidentally, the rise of the family fortune coincided with Pratibha Patil's rise in politics. Pratibha became Minister for Social Welfare in the Maharashtra Government in 1974, and in the same year her family-run Shram Sadhana Trust set up a sprawling hostel for working women in Mumbai with financial help from the Central Government.
The pattern continued till she became Governor of Rajasthan in 2004. Soon after, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development sanctioned Rs 96 lakh for construction of another working women's hostel, Umanchal, by her family-owned trust in Pimpri in Pune. Pratibha Patil inaugurated the hostel in January 2005.
The Shram Sadhana Trust, which is run by Pratibha Patil's daughter Jyoti Rathore as its managing trustee, controls four major working women's hostels and also a college of engineering and technology in Jalgaon.
Pratibha Patil's brothers are also involved in running the college.
The Maharashtra Mahila Udyam Trust, also managed by Jyoti Rathore, is a charitable organisation that also runs a working women's hostel and two schools in Jalgaon.
The hostels controlled by the two trusts were funded to the extent of 75 per cent by Government for building construction as part of a scheme of the Women and Child Development department. That a particular family was helped so liberally by the Government to run as many as four hostels is in itself sufficient to raise eyebrows, but the story does not end here.
In case of the Umanchal Hostel in Pune, the Maharashtra Government gifted away Rs 1 crore worth of land to the Shram Sadhana Trust. The Centre provided Rs 95 lakh grants-in-aid for construction of the building.
On the face of it, there was nothing wrong with such assistance as it met the norms laid down by the Pimpri-Chinchwad New Township Development Authority and the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development. But a closer scrutiny highlights violation of several norms for eligibility to the Central fund.
According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development's guidelines, financial assistance for construction of hostel for working women would not "ordinarily be available for hostels with capacity of more than 100 inmates." However, the 72-room Umanchal hostel houses more than 250 women.
Similarly, the Shram Sadhana Trust in Mumbai runs two working women's hostels, each housing more than 300 women.
In Delhi, the trust runs the Shubhanchal working women's hostel, which once again houses more than 300 working women. On Thursday, when The Pioneer tried to contact the officials of the hostel, the correspondent was denied entry and policemen were found guarding the premises.
The hostel building doesn't have a board of its own and the only sign of its existence is a pointer on a Syndicate Bank branch hoarding near the hostel.
Ministry of Women and Child Development official told The Pioneer that there are nearly 900 such Government-aided working women's hostels across the country. But only in a handful of cases had the Government waived the provision of not funding hostels which have a capacity of over 100 beds. The fact that exceptions were made in case of all the four hostels run by Pratibha Patil's family, is another pointer to the "generosity" of the Centre towards the former Rajasthan Governor.
The Union Government guidelines also state that the working women's hostel should provide accommodation to women whose income does not exceed Rs 16,000 consolidated per month. It is also mandatory for the hostels to reserve 22.5 per cent of seats for women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
But inquiries in the case of the Pimpri hostel showed that most of the inmates were working in two top-notch software companies, where the starting salary for a software engineer was around Rs 2.60 lakh per annum. The provision for keeping aside 22.5 per cent seats for SC/ST women has also been violated. Clearly, the very purpose of aiding the construction of such a hostels has been defeated.
As more and more disclosures surface about Pratibha Patil, it is becoming obvious that her family members are an enterprising lot and they have clearly gained from the Congress Governments' munificence towards the family.
Pratibha Patil will be treated like Sonia's doormat which she is.
10 Janpath is not far from Rashtrapati Bhavan: watch out!

Some suggestions have been made that Pratibha Patil was chosen by Sonia Gandhi to create a vulnerable, pliant President. Who, pray, is vulnerable? Me thinks, given the track record noted in this piece about PP's (Pratibha Patil) family, Sonia Gandhi will be vulnerable. 10 Jan path is not far from Rashtrapati Bhavan. Criminalised politics may find its just desserts. Has Man Mohan Singh's security apparatus really goofed up in not checking the criminal records before suggesting the name for woman emancipation in Bharatam? Has Sonia Gandhi taken for a ride by both blundering PM and Commies waiting for an opportunity for a palace coup?

Landmark Selection. Women, as UPA chair, as Rashtramaata. Maybe, Priyanka as next PM. Women's lib will be complete and glowing as the poor teacher who committed suicide leaves behind a family and as the widow of the murdered Congress leader goes from pillar to post seeking justice.

What a joke, this justice. Justice in Bharatam is stale, to cite the famous words of the CJ of SC.

Swapan talks of intellectuals' judicious silence. He is talking about himself, maybe.

When indigenous leadership collapses, colonialism re-appears. It isn’t necessary for a colonial regime to be present physically to loot the nation. It is enough to get into 10 Janpath; chamcha-s are ready to pay homage. So, the supine intellectuals can write their op-eds and go for a cup of coffee in Arun-da's or even UNI canteen. Delhi door aast from Kolkata. But, then, Karat may be seeing visions as PP talks with her dead guru. What is more miserable: listening to voice of conscience or conversing with the dead?

I do it all the time; I talk of Hindu civilization, of our pitr-s who have given us our identity. We are losing it talking like grads from St. Stephens' college.