600 spaces in Mumbai are now open to misuse
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600 spaces in Mumbai are now open to misuse

Recreational grounds/playgrounds policy paves way for private parties to take over hundreds of major plots across the city.

mumbai Updated: Jan 15, 2016 01:00 IST
Sanjana Bhalerao
Sanjana Bhalerao
Hindustan Times
Open spaces policy,Open spaces in Mumbai,Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
Oval maidan at Churchgate.(HT File)

Consider the series of events and the promises made by the civic body.

Nine prime plots are given on lease for 33 years in 1991 under the caretaker clause. As the issues of high membership fees and severely restricted entry to citizens come to light, citizens and activists stage protests.

After several campaigns, the state government stalls the policy in 2007 with promise of a better and comprehensive policy.

Ten years, two revised policies and innumerable promises later, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) approves the watered-down policy on open spaces or the recreational grounds/ playgrounds (RG/PG) policy.

This means around 600 plots in the city will open up for consequent encroachment by the private entities. Under the new policy, plots given to private entities on caretaker basis since 1991 will remain with them. At present, there are nine such plots — five with political parties as trustees and four others that are under the scanner for restricted entry.

Read: New open spaces policy is as vulnerable as the old one

For over a decade, the BMC has repeatedly failed to take action or present a case against the five major open spaces run by ministers and MPs from the Shiv-Sena and the BJP.

While getting the new policy cleared, the civic body said it will take action against the defaulters. The question arises will the civic body be able to take any action against the leaders of the ruling partners in the BMC who manage the plots?

Additional municipal commissioner SVR Srinivas, in charge of the garden department, assured, “If there have been violations, the plots will be taken back. If not, the contracts will be renewed.”

Also, the new policy could curb people’s access to the city’s 1,068 plots that covers around 1,200 acres.

Condemning the policy, Rais Shaikh, group leader Samajwadi Party, said in the general body meeting, “The policy fails to get the encroached land back. The politicians, who are the trustees, use the plots for private purposes.” The politicians who manage the plots, however, have repeatedly denied these claims. Activists, however, fear that the new policy may in fact see the return of the caretaker policy.

First Published: Jan 15, 2016 01:00 IST