Maharashtra cabinet’s decision to increase non-sporting activities on playgrounds has met with stiff opposition by citizens’ groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
On November 27, the state cabinet cleared a proposal to amend the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, to make way for the decision to allow political meetings on playgrounds for 45 days. The existing rule gives permission for 30 days only. The NGOs are planning several activities to mobilise people to protest the proposal. The amendment is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the Assembly.
On Monday, NAGAR -- an NGO working towards protection of open spaces -- wrote to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis strongly opposing the proposal. “You will agree that playgrounds will now not be available to children for five and a half months a year (four months of monsoon and 45 days as per your new policy). Surely political rallies cannot be any government’s priority over the right of children to have good quality playgrounds,” said the letter.
NAGAR has appealed to resident associations, advanced locality managements and NGOs in the city to write similar letters to the chief minister and build pressure.
“We fail to understand the rationale behind such an anti-children and anti-citizen move,” said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of NAGAR. NAGAR and WECOM Trust have planned a meeting on December 8 to discuss the impact.
“The aim is to bring people together and let the government know that there is resentment over the decision. Is this the development they had promised?” said Ashok Rawat, trustee of WECOM Trust. He said that there was no reason to increase the non-sporting days from 30 days to 45 days. A signature campaign is also being planned by the two NGOs.
“Any reduction in public use of open spaces should not be encouraged. There needs to be a calibrated decision so that alternatives are explored,” said Pankaj Joshi, urban planner and executive director of Urban Design Research Institute.