The policy on open spaces is likely to benefit politicians rather than citizens, said opposition leaders on Wednesday. The reason: of the 27 plots identified by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), most are maintained by organisations run by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
After reviewing various plots and meeting several citizens’ groups, BMC’s garden department identified 27 gardens/ playgrounds in the first phase, which can be maintained by private citizens, provided they comply with three conditions — non-discriminatory access, free of charge entry and adherence to timings decided by the BMC.
These grounds are likely to include St Xavier’s ground, Swatantraya Veer Sawarkar Udyan and Poisar Gymkhana, Aarey Bhaskar at Goregaon and Dahisar Sports Foundation, among others, run by Sena, BJP leaders. Going against the parameters, the civic body is considering plots that have remained in controversy for restricted entry, charging membership fees, carrying out commercial activities and also charging fees for sports coaching activities on the plots owned by the civic body, earning a lot of revenue without any share to the civic body.
A senior civic official said, “The policy is being drafted and has not yet been finalised. We have identified 27 plots and the list is under consideration. Whichever names will be part of the list will have to follow the three strictures.”
The Shiv Sena, which holds the reins of the civic body, said it was unaware of any such development. “We are not aware of any such development and we will decide only in favour of the citizens,” said mayor Snehal Ambekar.
Manoj Kotak, BJP group leader, said, “If this in favour of the citizens and also helps the corporation save funds, we will think about it.”
However, the opposition has slammed this move. Rais Shaikh, group leader, Samajwadi Party, alleged this will allow misuse of the open spaces in future. “Our party will oppose this new policy. This is a completely biased approach and a way of helping only a few leaders and looting the citizens of their open space,” he said.
Pravin Chheda, Congress group leader, said, “We will oppose this move of the administration whenever it is tabled before us.”