Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the civic body extended its support to citizens’ groups protesting against the controversial proposed open spaces policy, and demanded scrutiny of plots given under caretaker agreements, its own party MP and a senior minister in its government are against such a scrutiny.
Of the nine plots given under caretaker agreements for a lease of 33 years, five plots are maintained by trusts run by saffron alliance politicians. Gopal Shetty, who is Mumbai north MP, is a trustee of Poisar Gymkhana in Kandivli (west) and Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli (west) under caretaker agreements.
“As for all citizens’ groups that have doubts about the plots being maintained, I welcome them to maintain these plots on pilot basis and see what it is like. The policy has already been in limbo for more than eight years now, and all protests are leading to further delay,” said Shetty.
Subhash Desai, industries minister, whose trust maintains a plot in Goregaon, echoed Shetty’s statement. “There are no violations nor have we denied public entry to the ground. Instead, we are providing sports facilities to locals at a nominal fee between Rs20 and Rs50,” said Desai. His trust maintains Prabhodhan Kridangan in Goregaon.
The old caretaker policy, before it was stalled in 2007, had let many open spaces slip into the hands of private entities controlled by politicians, who, in turn, misused the properties by building gymkhanas, clubhouses, open only to members at exorbitant prices.
The Shiv Sena and BJP, which are in power at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, cleared the new policy in the civic improvements committee. They left a backdoor open for the caretaker policy; but they had to do a U-turn recently under pressure from citizens.
But, in fact, Sena’s two senior ministers, Subhash Desai and minister of state for housing, Ravindra Waikar, control such plots. Besides, BJP’s Gopal Shetty and other political heavyweights support the new policy. So far, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has also chosen to maintain silence on the policy.