A garden spanning 14,000 square metres, off Bandra’s Linking Road, has become a bitter bone of contention between residents, the civic body and a private foundation maintaining it. The Kamla Raheja foundation, which has been maintaining the Raosaheb Patwardhan garden, recently hiked entry fee to the garden, leading to outrage among locals.
Also, the foundation has refused to allow children to play on a ground within the garden. This is despite the fact that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s Development Plan shows the plot as a ‘recreation ground’ or ‘RG’.
Locals in Bandra have now decided to launch an agitation to ensure that the foundation, whose lease for maintaining the ground expires in February 2011, doesn’t get renewal. The plot was first leased to the foundation in 1992.
The Hindustan Times has been campaigning for the city’s open spaces, to ensure they are protected. When HT visited the garden on December 31, there was a board outside saying any kind of sports was not allowed.
Aftab Siddiqui, chairperson, 33rd Road ALM, said, “For years before the foundation took over, children played cricket and football in the ground. But, the foundation has put up a board disallowing children from doing so.”
Residents are also vehemently opposing the hike in entry fees. “There are many slum children and adults, for whom Rs 5 just to enter the garden is to much. When a BMC-owned garden becomes so costly, where will such children go?” asked another Bandra activist Hasim Shaikh.
A civic official from the H-West ward confirmed it would be illegal for the foundation to restrict entry. “In an RG and a PG, children have complete right to indulge in sports activities. It’s illegal for anyone to stop them.”
Deputy municipal commissioner (Zone III) Sudhir Naik criticised the foundation and said, “No one can stop children from playing inside the RG, not even the foundation. It goes against our rules. Regarding the hike, the foundation submitted a plea saying it should be allowed to hike rates as it has spent a lot on the garden. That has been approved.”
GL Raheja, of the Kamla Raheja foundation justified the move to bar children from playing on the ground. “There are a lot of people who visit the garden for a walk or stroll. Any kind of sporting activity could harm and injure these people and hence, we have disallowed it.” As far as the hike in entry fee is concerned, Raheja said, “We have obtained all permissions from the BMC to hike the fees.”