The BMC’s garden department is buying bonsai plants and rubber mats for a central Mumbai garden at costs much higher than the market rate.
While Bonsai plants cost up to Rs20,000 in the market, a list HT has accessed shows the BMC has spent more than Rs60,000 on each of them — the department has bought a 35-year-old Ficus Religiousia (peepal) bonsai for Rs62,629, a 20-year-old Ficus Highland for Rs60,123 and a 26-year-old Ficus Viren bonsai for Rs57,618. In the market, the peepal bonsai costs Rs15,000-Rs20,000. On rubber mats — laid below the children’s playground — the BMC is spending up to six times higher than market rates.
On the whole, the department has spent Rs1.20 crore on just the plants and rubber mats for the garden at Bhoiwada — Rs24.40 lakh on 60 bonsai plants and Rs96 lakh for 300 sqm of rubber mats.
“This is at least four times higher than normal rates. Even if you say the bonsai plants are 35 years old or argue they are rare, the cost seems to be on the higher side,” said a well-known supplier of bonsai plants.
“There are several cases where the BMC is paying exorbitant money to agencies for supplying such items. In our social audit on gardens, we raised this issue with the officials concerned and with municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, but nothing has been done to curb these corrupt practices,” said RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu.
Prabhu has done a first-of-its-kind social audit on some of the city’s gardens to improve their maintenance.
Citizen activist Nikhil Desai criticised the purchase, saying “costly aesthetic plants will have no benefit to the environment”. “Instead of spending Rs24.40 lakhs on bonsai plants, the BMC should plant more trees to bring down pollution and increase the city’s green cover.”
SS Shinde, the joint municipal commissioner (gardens) promised to look into the matter: “I will have to check under what specifications these plants were purchased,” he said.
These purchases are being made for the 8.15-acre recreation ground based on theme ‘Sanyukt Maharashtra’. The garden, one of Mumbai’s largest, is being developed at a cost of Rs8 crore at the Bombay Dyeing plot near Bhoiwada crematorium. It has a jogging track, rock garden, bonsai garden, play equipment, an area for senior citizens and open air gym.