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Open spaces policy passed, but BMC has no clue how to take back 29 Mumbai plots

Policy does not clarify what the BMC should do about existing constructions on plots that are already with private bodies

mumbai Updated: Nov 24, 2017 15:20 IST
Sagar Pillai
Sagar Pillai
Hindustan Times
MUMBAI OPEN SPACES,MUMBAI PLOTS,MUMBAI PLAYGROUNDS
The policy states clearly that those who want to maintain open spaces will not be allowed to carry out construction on the plot, but makes no mention of what happens in case of existing constructions.(HT File)

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) may have passed an interim policy for open spaces, but the civic administration is still unclear about taking back 29 plots - playgrounds, recreational grounds and gardens - that are currently with private bodies, most of them run by influential politicians.

Since January 2016, following Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ order, the BMC has taken back 187 of the original 216 open spaces given to NGOs, citizens’ groups and private entities for maintenance. However, some of the organisations affiliated to political bigwigs refused to return them - a few of them have built clubs and charge hefty membership fees from members, at the same time denying locals access to the space, as is intended.

Despite severe criticism from activists for failing to take back the plots, the BMC’s interim policy allows the caretakers of such plots (who have not returned the open spaces) to apply to a committee, formed under a ward officer, to maintain the open spaces already in their possession.

The policy states clearly that those who want to maintain open spaces will not be allowed to carry out any form of construction on the plot, but makes no mention of existing constructions, so officials are unclear about what to do with existing constructions on the 29 plots.

READ: Activists slam Mumbai civic body, say open spaces policy favours politicians over residents

Most of these plots are maintained by senior BJP and Shiv Sena leaders. Some of the open spaces that the BMC is yet to take back includes Swatantra Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Kridangan in Kandivli (both maintained by BJP MP Gopal Shetty’s Poisar Gymkhana); a plot in Goregaon maintained by Sena minister Subhash Desai’s Prabodhan Foundation; and St Xavier’s ground in Parel, maintained by Mumbai District Football Association, which is chaired by Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray. Other plots include Aarey Bhaskar in Goregaon under Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu, and a plot in Vile Parle maintained by Sena leader Ramesh Prabhu’s trust.

The interim policy allows private organisations to maintain these plots on 11-month contracts, which activists have opposed strongly, saying that it simply means politicians can now acquire these plots officially.

Anandhini Thakoor, a civic activist from Khar, said: “Since there is a policy in place for the time being, it should allow corporations, NGOs and citizens’ groups to monitor these plots, instead of allowing politicians to take control. They do not have time for the public, how would they give access to public there?”

While the BMC has cleared the policy, the BJP and Opposition parties have objected to it, stating that the ruling party Shiv Sena cleared it without discussing it with them.

First Published: Nov 24, 2017 13:42 IST