Citizens opposed to open spaces policy knock on Maharashtra CM’s door

  • Tanushree Venkatraman, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 10, 2015 00:30 IST
Azad Maidan at Fort. In the new policy, the BMC will allow organisations to adopt an open plot and maintain it for a period of three years. (File photo)

On a day when the new open spaces policy was passed by the civic improvements committee, twelve of the city’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come together to oppose it.

The groups have written a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis demanding his urgent attention to the policy, also known as the Recreation ground (RG)/Playground (PG) policy. The controversial policy was passed by the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance on Monday, despite strong opposition from the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), in the civic improvements committee meeting.

The proposal will now be tabled before the general body meeting, which consists of all the 227 corporators, for final approval, after Diwali. Though the new policy has removed the caretaker clause, activists have pointed out flaws that need major tweaking.

Meher Rafat, trustee Nagar, said, “NGOs from Chembur to Colaba have opposed the policy as it is completely unacceptable in its present format. The city is suffering from a severe paucity of open spaces and this policy exposes these plots for exploitation.”

Read more: New open spaces policy for Mumbai likely to be passed on Nov 9

Politicians crowding in on city’s open spaces

From the lack of deterrents on violators to no penalty on organisations who misused plots earlier — the opposition in the improvements committee discussed every loophole in the hour-long meeting. The proposal was finally put to vote where the BJP-Sena alliance passed it with 12 votes — the opposition registered 11 votes.

Ajanta Yadav, a Congress corporator said, “The administration should have first brought a proposal on how to get back the plots that have been commercialized already. This policy has been brought only to benefit developers.”

Read more: BMC not putting money where open spaces are

Violate new policy norms, face action: BMC chief

The new policy has done away with the caretaker clause, which was earlier misused by organisations with political affiliations by building gymkhanas and restricting public entry. However, the policy states that a status quo will be maintained on these plots.

In the new policy, the BMC will allow organisations to adopt an open plot and maintain it for a period of three years.

The BMC has enumerated several conditions under which organisations will be given preference to adopt a plot.

Asharaf Azmi, a Samajwadi corporator, challenged the administration to name one plot in the city that has not been developed commercially by organisations. “While international standards prescribe 6-8% open space in the city, Mumbai has a measly 0.8% space. The BMC is not a commercial organisation, it has been constituted for public service,” Azmi said.

Even as the opposition parties tore off the policy and staged a walkout, Sena members said it has been drafted with the intention to make public spaces available for citizens. Raju Pednekar, a Sena corporator said, “Opposition members should read the terms and conditions in the policy before talking. The policy clearly states that no commercial activity will be permitted on the open plots.” Prakash Gangadhare, a BJP corporator and the improvements committee chairman, also said the policy is beneficia.

Meanwhile, the administration deleted a clause in the policy that provided an additional municipal commissioner discretionary powers over allowing “admissible” commercial usage. SVR Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner, in-charge of gardens said, “We have deleted the clause as there is already a point which allows sports federations to develop a plot under special cases.”

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