Six months after ordering the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to take back 216 open spaces, including the iconic Oval Maidan, Horniman Circle and Cross Maidan, that had been ‘adopted’ by private organisations, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday signalled a change of stance.
Fadnavis said the state government is open to allowing private organisations, including citizens’ groups, to adopt and maintain open spaces, as long as they don’t charge citizens or make a profit.
The move means the BMC’s ‘adoption’ policy that allows these various bodies to maintain open spaces without making any constructions on it will now be back. According to the policy, any organisation can maintain an open space for five years on paying a deposit of Rs25,000. They cannot construct anything on the plot, except a shed for the gardener and security guards.
Before the policy was revoked, many citizens’ groups had adopted neighbourhood open spaces. Large sections of civil society have been rooting for this policy as it ensures good upkeep and free access to citizens.
The chief minister was speaking in the legislative assembly’s question hour on a query over the city’s open spaces in the development plan (DP). BJP MLA from Bandra, Ashish Shelar, demanded the CM makes maintenance of open spaces the BMC’s obligatory duty, instead of allowing private bodies to maintain them.
But Fadnavis refused and said, “While it is the BMC’s obligatory duty, the civic body is often burdened and hence, is not able to take care of all its open spaces. If an agency is ready to maintain it for free, then there shouldn’t be a problem.”
But such an arrangement should come with strict conditions, the CM said. “If the BMC decides to give it to someone to maintain, they should ensure the agency doesn’t profit and that no user fee is charged for citizens. At no cost will we allow any profiteering from the open space plot,” he said.
Fadnavis had, in January, stayed the controversial open spaces policy and asked then civic chief Ajoy Mehta to take back the 216 plots given under the adoption policy, including spaces like the Oval Maidan, Horniman Circle and Cross Maidan, among others. Acting on his orders, the BMC took over 120 of these plots.
The CM also said the state government will ensure the development plan (DP) will not allow for any reduction of open spaces in the city.
“The city will have more open spaces from this plan than it had from the 1991 DP. If the BMC doesn’t make these provisions at its end, we will ensure this when the plan comes to us for final approval,” he added.