The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has begun scrutinising agreements by which nine open spaces were handed over to various entities run by politicians or trusts even as it begins the process of reclaiming about 225 of the city’s open spaces. Nine prime plots given to private entities for 33 years under the earlier caretaker policy, in force since 1991, came to be controlled by these entities, which charged high membership fees and allowed only selective entry to citizens.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta told HT on Tuesday that an examination of the lease agreements of the nine controversial plots is underway. The BMC has so far sent 30 notices to various organisations to hand over the plots within seven days after clearing pending dues such as electricity and water bills. “The plots distributed under the caretaker policy were given for a comparatively long period of time. We are examining these plots to decide what action is to be taken,” said Mehta.
After repeated campaigns, the state stalled the policy in 2007, promising a better and more comprehensive one. However, the plots remained with the private entities they had been leased to.
They include Prabodhan Kridabhavan, run by industries minister and Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, and Matoshree Art and Sports Club, run by minister of state for housing Ravindra Waikar, also from the Shiv Sena. BJP MP Gopal Shetty, who ran Poisar Gymkhana and Veer Savarkar Udhyan, announced on Monday that he was returning the two plots to the BMC. Civic officials confirmed they had received a letter from the MP.
Meanwhile, some citizens groups dismayed with decisions regarding the open-spaces policy have called for a public meeting to discuss it, while others have drafted their own policy for the BMC’s consideration. These groups want BMC to maintain the plots and appoint local groups as watchdogs rather than hand them over to private entities.