Expressing apprehension over the state and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) move to re-introduce a reworked version of the caretaker policy, activists on Tuesday said the move is a “betrayal of citizens’ trust in the authorities to protect their rightful open spaces”.
In its Tuesday edition, Hindustan Times had reported about the new open spaces policy the BMC is drafting as an alternative to the controversial caretaker policy.
Activists are unhappy with the clauses in the new policy. Demanding that the state repeal the caretaker policy, Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design and Research Institute, said: “Why gift away 25 per cent of every open space to private players when the maintenance of plots can be done free of cost through the adoption policy?”
The civic body had two open spaces policies — the adoption and the caretaker policies. Under the adoption policy, an open space could be given to a citizens’ group for five years for a deposit of Rs 25,000.
Only a 10 x 10 feet security enclosure could be constructed on the plot.
As per the caretaker policy, large plots could be handed over to big trusts or firms for 33 years. The trusts could construct on 25 per cent of the plot and operate it.
Citizens objected to this policy, saying that under the guise of leasing plots, trusts were encroaching on them and making them off-limits for people.
After vociferous protests, the state stayed both policies in 2007. With the re-introduction of the caretaker policy, albeit modified, activists fear the city will lose its open spaces.
“The BMC knows how to present a seemingly citizen-friendly policy and twist it to make it out of bounds for citizens to participate in its implementation. Which citizens’ group will have enough resources to adopt open spaces?” asked activist Rajkumar Sharma.
“By drafting policies to hand over open spaces to private players, the authorities are abdicating their responsibility to maintain open spaces, despite having a garden budget of Rs 287 crore,” said Citispace activist Vidya Vaidya.
Citispace, a citizens’ group that is fighting for open spaces, has drawn up cost estimates for protecting the city’s open spaces.
“About 940 acres of the open spaces need barricading and maintenance so the capital cost will be around Rs 103 crore in the first year. Then on, it will cost around Rs 56 crore a year, a pittance compared to the BMC budget,” said Citispace convenor Neera Punj.