Even though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Friday introduced a new policy for protection of open spaces in the city, the playgrounds and recreation grounds that were given to outfits run by politicians under the controversial ‘caretaker policy’ will remain with them.
The new policy doesn’t have any provision to take those open spaces back and make them accessible for the citizens. The new policy is also silent about what will happen to plots whose caretakers violated norms set under the caretaker policy.
BMC’s new policy, however, prevents the caretaker policy from being used in future.
Years ago, seven plots were given under the caretaker clause to people associated with political parties. These include Vihar Sports Complex and Mandapeshwar Club in Borivli, MIG Club in Bandra, and Matoshree Club in Jogeshwari, among others.
The organisations running clubs on these plots are under the scanner of the civic body, which found several violations such as illegal constructions, misuse of space, commercial use, and restrictions on the entry of citizens.
They were also found to be renting out grounds for weddings and parties. At most of these places, citizens were denied access to the open spaces. Over the past few years, citizens and activists have been demanding the cancellation of agreements with these ‘caretakers’.
Also, these clubs charge Rs3 lakh to Rs5 lakh as membership fees for citizens.
But there are many NGOs and citizens’ groups ready to run and maintain the clubs with nominal entry fees. Activist Nikhil Desai said, “According to the rule, local citizens should be given free entry but these clubs do not bother to follow rules. Now that the policy is in place, the BMC should take the plots back from these violators of rules.”
A senior official, on condition of anonymity said, “There is pressure from all political parties not to take any action on violators.”