The civic body says it has drawn up a people-friendly open spaces policy, but citizens’ groups are not certain the new policy will be any more effective than the old caretaker policy.
The new policy has several amendments to address the concerns of Mumbaiites against the misuse of these plots. Citizens had two big problems with the caretaker policy, which was stayed in 2007 following severe opposition. First, the private bodies that were allotted the open space did not allow locals to access it. Second, the private bodies — mostly controlled by politicians — built clubs and restaurants on the space, defeating the purpose of maintaining the city’s open places.
“All these policies look promising on paper, but the people who want to misuse it will find new ways to circumvent the policy. Our primary demand of scrapping the caretaker policy will stand,” said Vidya Vaidya of Citispace, an NGO working to save the city’s green spaces.
“Whatever open space is there in the city should be preserved for public use and should not be given to any private party on caretaker basis. I don’t support any caretaker policy,” said DM Sukthankar, former municipal commissioner.
Pankaj Joshi of the Urban Research Design Institute said: “Fundamentally, the caretaker policy is a fraud.” The civic body says the new policy has enough to safeguard the open spaces.
Under the new policy, only plots bigger than 5,000 sq m can be allotted under the caretaker policy; the smaller plots ones will be allotted under the existing adoption policy, as per which no construction is allowed on the plot. The civic body also restricts the construction to 25 % of the plot area as opposed to the up to 33% under the caretaker policy.
Also, construction on the 25% will be permitted only after the trust has maintained 75 % of the plot.
Associations with corporate backing will get the larger open spaces. “Corporate backing will ensure enough funds to maintain the plots,” said civic chief Subodh Kumar.
So far, 265 open spaces have been given under the adoption policy, while 43 plots have been allotted under the caretaker policy. There are another 180 plots on offer under the caretaker policy. The new policy will apply to these spaces. Around 40 of these are larger than 15,000 sq metres. The new policy will also include the plots already given on caretaker basis.