‘Caretaker clause will lead to abuse of open spaces’
The new open spaces policy has already got activists fuming. According to them, the policy's caretaker clause, if implemented, will lead to a monopolisation of open spaces in the city.
Although the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been calling the new open spaces policy citizen-centric, citizen groups and experts have criticised the policy for the clause, whereby the civic body can hand over 25% of the open spaces plot to a private trust, which can commercially exploit the area for at least 30 years.
The BMC has cited a lack of response from bidders and an inaccessibility of open spaces plots as reasons for this clause.
Activists fear that if implemented, such a policy will lead to a rampant abuse of open spaces, since private trusts, including those managed by politicians, would try to exploit this clause in order to gain commercial benefit.
Khar-based activist Aftab Siddiqui said the policy would be stringently opposed. “Such a clause is an abuse of the BMC’s powers. This will make it very easy and arbitrary for screening committee officials to hand over any number of plots in the same ward to one single beneficiary.”
A senior civic official, not wishing to be named, said this clause was an attempt to dilute the policy. “This clause seems to have been inserted to please certain political interests. None of our plots are at inaccessible locations. Why can’t we develop the plots, which do not elicit any response, on our own?” the official asked.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) said, “By publishing advertisements in little-known newspapers, the BMC can always claim there was no response to them.This will set a very dangerous trend of bundling out many open spaces plots together, to the same beneficiary”
Hindustan Times had reported how the policy decided to go soft on plots that were leased out or allotted to different trusts, on a caretaker basis.
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.