While there have been examples of the space-starved city losing its open spaces to private entities in the past, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) says the new policy will ensure strict measures against those who violate norms.
Speaking exclusively to HT, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said the BMC will file a cheating case against organisations found to have violated norms. Apart from this, the organisations will also not be considered for the adoption of plots again.
Mehta said, “The plots will be immediately taken away from the organisations. We will also initiate trespassing and cheating cases against them.” It must, however, be noted that the deterrents have not been illustrated in the new policy. The norms found to be violated could include restricting public entry to the plot, allowing construction activity on the plot or even using it for commercial purposes.
Mehta also agreed there have been instances in the past when the plots have been taken over and misused by organisations because of ‘loose policies.’ “We have ensured that no organisation will be allowed any construction on the plot, except toilets, and nobody gets exclusive rights. The policy does not allow any commercial activity on open plots. We are inviting organisations to only develop and maintain the plots,” he said.
The policy also does not mention how the BMC will make the plots accessible to citizens. The new policy, which has been passed by the group leaders of the BMC, will be tabled for approval at the civic improvement committee on Thursday. In it, the BMC has done away with the caretaker clause, which has been misused by organisations with political affiliations.
According to the new policy, the BMC will now handover plots to interested organisations by assigning weightage to their experience, annual turnover etc. “If the administration were to develop these plots, it would be a slow procedure because we have to issue tenders, appoint contractors, make payments etc. The same, if undertaken by local citizens, will prove to be faster,” he said.
While activists and politicians across lines have questioned the cash-rich BMC’s need for organisations to maintain plots, which it can otherwise handle on its own, Mehta said local involvement is key. “Today, people are very cautious about open spaces. Nobody can walk away with it. With this policy, we are looking at making these spaces attractive, accessible and protected, which is needed,” Mehta said.
Activists, however, want the BMC to enlist the action that will be taken against violators in writing. Meher Rafat, trustee, of the citizen group Nagar said, “It is always a good practice to put across your intentions in writing.”