The citizens of Mumbai can get back their open spaces if the government is ready to spend at least Rs 56 crore every year.
Opposing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's caretaker policy CitiSpace, the non-governmental organisation that has been fighting for open spaces in Mumbai, has calculated the sum to be spent at current market price to buy and maintain open spaces.
CitiSpace, in a public statement, has criticised the demand for bringing back the caretaker policy under which plots given to private institutions can be used to construct clubs, gymkhanas and restaurants.
Mumbai has 940 acres of open spaces. According to CitiSpace, the upgrading and restoration of an acre of open space would involve approximately Rs 5 lakh as capital cost and monthly maintenance cost of Rs. 50,000. The cost for the first year will be Rs 11 lakh an acre. Therefore 940 acres will cost at least Rs. 103 crore for the first year and Rs. 56.5 crore annually thereafter, the NGO said.
“The caretaker policy…if holistically applied as designed in…law, could be feasible,” the letter said. “To date the restrictive laws in the policy are misused and manipulated.”
The issue has come to the fore again after a delegation of senior Shiv Sena leaders, including former opposition leader in the Assembly, Ramdas Kadam, and legislator Subhash Desai met Mayor Shraddha Jadhav on Tuesday demanding a revival of the caretaker policy.
The Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance rules the BMC. In November 2007, following protests by citizens and political parties, then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh stayed the caretaker policy. “There is no question of reviving the policy at the cost of open spaces that belong to the people of this city,” Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor of Citispace, said.
At Tuesday's meeting, the leaders questioned why the corporation had allowed the Mumbai Cricket Association to develop the open plots and said the same condition be applied to other plots. Many plots have been allotted to Sena-BJP leaders on a caretaker basis, when the alliance was in power in the state between 1995 and 1999.
'Give more plots in slums for adoption'
Corporators from the Samajwadi Party met BMC Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya regarding the caretakers and adoption policy that was stayed in 2008 after public outcry. The members said that the along with plots in prime locations given for adoption they should also give plots in slums for adoption.