In what is a big victory for citizens and activists working to conserve Mumbai’s open spaces, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said residents will have a major say in maintaining grounds in their locality.
"I have asked the civic chief to rework the [open spaces] policy such that citizens have the primary say in what happens to the grounds," Chavan told Hindustan Times. The civic body is likely to send the draft policy to Chavan by the week’s end and it could be introduced in the Legislature’s Winter Session in December.
On June 15, Hindustan Times had, in its Mumbai First citizens’ charter submitted to the government, asked for such a policy.
The controversy over open spaces being handed over to private organisations, many of which have political patronage, has been raging since 2007. Under the caretaker policy, organisations could take over an open space and build clubs on 25 per cent of the land, maintaining the rest and leaving it open to the public.
However, while the grounds were taken over, citizens were rarely allowed access to them.
Following a public outcry, the government stayed the policy.
Chavan said that, as per the new policy, all open spaces would be first offered to nearby residential societies or federations for maintenance. For bigger spaces, societies could form joint ventures with private organisations. Citizens will decide what facilities the space will have.
There will be an open bidding process for maintenance of the grounds. If citizens suspect any malpractice, they can stop the handing over of the open space.
The winning bidder will have to first beautify 75 per cent of the open space and hand it over to the civic body.
Only after that will it be allowed to build clubs or sporting facilities. This will ensure that the ground remains accessible to citizens.
Inputs by Kunal Purohit