Politicians crowding in on city’s open spaces

  • Sanjana Bhalerao, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 05, 2015 23:57 IST
MIG Club in Bandra (East). (File photo)

Politicians, who in the past have been accused of grabbing the city’s open spaces under the controversial caretaker policy and also of being involved in the misuse of the already encroached open spaces in the city, now want to be part of the decision-making bodies under the new policy.

In the policy, the administration has proposed the formation of two committees — the scrutiny and the supervisory committee — which now elected representatives in the civic body want to be a part of.

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The old caretaker policy, which has now been scrapped, caused many open spaces to slip into the hands of private entities controlled by politicians, who in turn misused the properties by building gymkhanas and club-houses, open only to members at exorbitant prices. In 2007, they tried to push through a policy that would make it easier to take over the remaining open spaces in the city, but the attempt was foiled by citizen groups, who insisted the people in the city should have free access to these places in the city. The civic body was forced to scrap the controversial caretaker policy, but the new policy — which will come before the civic improvements committee for its nod on Monday — has certain loopholes that citizen groups and experts fear will be misused — this means several open spaces could be handed over to private entities.

According to the policy, the scrutiny committee will scan through applications to determine the eligibility to hand over the city’s plots, while the supervisory committee will oversee and evaluate the performance of the organisations over the next three years. This means that both the committees will have a major part to play in not only handing over plots, but determining the upkeep and continuance of a particular organisation. The committees that will be formed in all the 24 wards in the city will consist of 4-5 civic officials each, but without any citizen representative. Activists believe this will facilitate bureaucratic control.

Without local representation and now with the possibility of corporators being included, activists fear this will give rise to favouritism and the scope for corruption in handing over of the plots under adoption will increase.

The new RG/PG policy has received a go-ahead from the civic group leaders of political parties and will now be tabled on November 9 in an improvement committee meeting and for final approval from 227 corporators in the general body meeting later.

The improvement committees meeting is being headed by a BJP corporator Prakash Gangadhare. “The policy needs to be more inclusive thus we have demanded corporators to have a say in how the plots in their wards be developed,” he said. The group leaders, while giving their nod to the policy, had demanded the inclusion of local corporators in the committees. The BMC does not seem mind this demand. “I don’t see any harm in corporators, who are citizens’ representatives in the BMC, being part of these committees,” said senior civic official.

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