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Repeal controversial policy, demand activists

Pledging to save the city’s open spaces from the state’s “bad policies”, citizen activists are initiating a movement to ensure that the government repeals altogether the controversial caretaker policy.

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2010 02:33 IST
Kunal Purohit

Pledging to save the city’s open spaces from the state’s “bad policies”, citizen activists are initiating a movement to ensure that the government repeals altogether the controversial caretaker policy.

As per the policy, open spaces can be handed over to private organisations that can build facilities such as clubhouses on 25 per cent of the land, maintaining the rest and leaving it open to the public. However, citizens are rarely allowed to use this open space.

Addressing a gathering of the citizen groups and activists, non-governmental organisation Citispace said it would conduct a ward-wise audit of designated open spaces.

Neera Punj, Citispace convenor, said: “Despite having a humongous budget, the civic body claims that it doesn’t have enough money to protect open spaces. They want to hand over such plots to private players and make them inaccessible to the common man.”

The controversial policy applies to any open space larger than 5,000 sq mt. The space could be leased to a private player for 33 years at a nominal rent.

Following a public outcry in 2007, then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had stayed the policy. However, activists fear that it could be revived. “The policy looked good on paper but the civic body’s lack of proper implementation made it a menace for citizens,” said Punj.

Citispace co-convenor Nayana Kathpalia said: “We need a ward-wise audit of open spaces and a report card to highlight how the civic body and the state government have been neglecting this issue. Vacating the stay on such a policy would mean that the remaining open spaces would also be gobbled up by politicians and vested interests.”

Citispace, along with other citizen bodies, plans to start the ward-wise audit by September 25.