BMC polls: Bickering among parties plagues Mumbai’s open spaces policy
Ruling partners Shiv Sena and BJP have used the open spaces policy for settling scores and gaining brownie points ahead of the civic election without any real solution in sight.Updated: Jan 18, 2017 00:50 IST
The average open space available for a Mumbaiikar is just 1.24 square metre — the lowest in the country. Delhi, which is among the most polluted cities in the country, fared better than the financial capital at 4.50 square meters per capita.
To improve the availability of open spaces, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had, in the past five years, set aside Rs1,073 crore for development and maintenance of gardens and recreational grounds. On an average, it allocates more than Rs200 crore each year for this purpose.
The BMC could have easily maintained 1,068 plots or 1,200 acres of open spaces (at an estimate cost of Rs108 crore a year) had the money been utilised properly, claimed activists.
But instead, there has been continuous bickering and blame games over the delay in bringing out the policy that defines open spaces.
Ruling partners Shiv Sena and BJP have used it for settling scores and gaining brownie points ahead of the civic election without any real solution in sight.
With elections round the corner, the policy has been quietly brushed under the carpet.
While the Shiv Sena has strongly been in favour of the controversial clause in the open spaces policy, its alliance partner the BJP has been doing a flip-flop in regarding the matter.
In 2007, the state government stayed the controversial policy, following criticism that open spaces were being handed over to people with political clout, who in turn had reduced the city’s open resources into fiefdoms.
After nearly nine years, the BMC tabled a new recreation ground/playground policy, which had the same controversial clauses that could have resulted in preferential treatment to some groups and no free access to citizens.
Amid fracas over the new open spaces policy, CM Devendra Fadnavis ordered the civic body to take back the 216 leased plots from various organisations and review the policy.
But,the civic body came up with an interim policy before all the leased plots (especially those leased to political heavyweights ) could be taken back.
The interim policy in December allowed private organisations, NGOs and citizen groups to get a chance to maintain the 216 plots until the final policy was cleared. The clauses included non-discriminatory entrance to citizens, free of charge entry and adherence to civic body’s timings.