Faced with fierce opposition from citizen groups for trying to re-introduce the controversial caretaker policy, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is working out a formula so that open spaces are not misused.
In its reworked policy, the BMC plans to demarcate all open space plots into two sections: While 25 per cent will be handed over to the private party, who will act as the caretaker and construct on it, the remaining 75 per cent will be left open for citizens. The BMC proposes to develop this 75 per cent and recover its maintenance cost from the caretaker.
Aseem Gupta, additional municipal commissioner, confirmed that such a move was on the cards. “The policy is yet to be approved so commenting on it is not appropriate,” he said.
Citizen groups, however, point out that the move suggests the civic body is simply writing off the 25 per cent, which rightfully belongs to the public. “The demarcation will mean that the administration is sure of losing 25 per cent of the plot. Why should citizens suffer because of its ineffective policies?” said Nayana Kathpalia, Citispace co-convenor.
The BMC argues that it is just a way of ensuring that no one usurps the entire plot and restricts access to citizens, as has happened in the past. “The idea is to construct a wall around 75 per cent of the plot and separate it from the 25 per cent so that the caretaker won’t be able to take over the entire space,” a BMC official said, on condition of anonymity.
The BMC originally had two policies for the city’s open spaces: The adoption and the caretaker policies. Under the adoption policy, an open space could be handed over to a citizen group or an NGO for five years for a deposit of Rs 25,000. Only a 10x10 feet security enclosure could be constructed on the plot.
On the other hand, the caretaker policy allowed large plots to be handed over to trusts or firms for at least 33 years. The trusts could then construct on 25 per cent of the plot and maintain the entire plot.
Citizens objected to this as trusts would encroach on the entire plot and make it off limits for locals. After vociferous protests and a series of stories by Hindustan Times that highlighted the risk the city ran of losing its open spaces, the state stayed both policies in 2007.
However, political pressure has prompted the BMC to try and reintroduce a modified version of the caretaker policy.