In a decision that may stir up controversy, the BMC has decided not to mark any places of worship in the draft development plan (DP) for Mumbai. The civic body’s controversial stance on the issue has meant that, barring exceptions, none of Mumbai's shrines have been shown in the DP. Instead, the land that is occupied by these shrines has been marked for residential-commercial use.
The civic body’s planners said this was a calculated decision taken because these places were not “effectively public places.” As a result, the civic body has neither shown existing shrines nor allotted any space for new ones.
Activists had earlier pointed out how several important religious landmarks like Siddhivinayak temple, Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahim Dargah, Mahalaxmi temple, Mahim Church among others have not been marked. It has now emerged the civic body has decided to scrap the category, altogether.
“Our opinion was that these places were not essentially public places. Also, many smaller shrines were inside slums, which we could not map. Hence, it was not right to mark some and not mark the others. So we decided to scrap the category, completely,” said Vidyadhar K Phatak, chief advisor to the BMC on the DP.
While the civic body insists otherwise, many critics believe this move might lead to a large-scale misuse of the lands occupied by these shrines. Many believe the trusts controlling these shrines may get a free hand in exploiting the land commercially in the future.
According to the existing land use (ELU) maps prepared by the civic body, the city’s shrines occupy 422.5 acres of land, which is equivalent to nearly 20 Oval Maidans.
Many of these structures are also heritage structures and their status has also not been recorded by the civic body.