The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Friday took the first step to clear a new open spaces policy eight years in the making.
The plan approved by group leaders of political parties will junk the controversial caretaker policy for open spaces, and continue only with the adoption policy – which means all new plots and open spaces that are reserved in the city can be adopted by NGOs and citizen groups for five years, on paying a deposit amount.
Citizens can access these adopted open spaces through the day, at a nominal entry fee of Rs2-Rs5.
The policy will now go to the Improvements Committee, and then to the general body for a final go ahead.
Most have welcomed scrapping the caretaker policy – where open spaces were leased out to organisations that in turn build gymkhanas and clubs on it – but the final policy seems to be a watered-down version with a contentious clause that says plots that were earlier leased on this basis will be protected.
The group leaders have protected plots given on the caretaker basis to their fellow politicians.
This means these organisations can continue controlling the plots under them, if they submit proof that Rs3 crore has been spent on the plots.
As a result, the city will lose seven large plots that politicianns hold on a caretaker basis .
These include the Vihar Sports Complex and Mandapeshwar Club in Borivli, MIG Club in Bandra, Matoshree Club in Jogeshwari, Prabodhankar Thackeray Complex, Poisar Gymkhana, Veer Savarkar ground, among others. The Matoshree Club is run by Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar, Poisar Gymkhana and Veer Savarkar ground is managed by close aides of BJP MP Gopal Shetty.
The civic body had also found several norms were flouted on these plots, like illegal construction, not allowing the public entry and misuse of open spaces, but, in the absence of a policy, it was not been able to take action.
The new policy has also come too late, as the BMC has no new plots to give on an adoption basis. “We don’t have new plots. But with the policy in place, we can now act on those violating norms,” said joint municipal commissioner SS Shinde.
The Congress has opposed the BMC’s move, calling the policy a favour to politicians using BMC’s land. Congress corporator Devendra Amberkar has accused the administration of favouring political leaders. “With the Rs3-crore expenditure document clause, the civic body is making it very obvious that they want to save political parties that are misusing public plots.”
The original policy on recreational grounds (RG) and playgrounds (PG) was stayed in 2007 by the then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, after activists alleged private parties were misusing public plots.
In 2013, the policy was again put before group leaders, but the Sena deferred it because of the Assembly elections.
The city currently has 1,052 open spaces, of which 186 have been adopted, more than 700 have been developed and 160 are with the garden department.