The general body of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has passed an interim policy for the city’s open spaces, allowing citizen groups, NGOs and private organisations to maintain the city’s open spaces for eleven months. However, activists and corporators belonging to different parties, have slammed the decision, saying it has gone against the chief minister’s directives. They also alleged that the policy was tabled cleared in haste in the house.
The interim open spaces policy, which allows the citizens and groups to maintain the city’s open spaces for a contractual period of 11 months, was passed on November 23, 2017, by BMC’s elected representatives. The move comes despite the fact that all of the 216 open plots in the city that were given to private entities, are yet to be reclaimed even a year after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ directions to the civic body to do so.
There are 216 open spaces under the BMC, of which 187 have been reclaimed by the civic body as per the CM’s instructions. However, 29 plots that are in the custody of senior BJP and Shiv Sena leaders, are yet to be reclaimed. In January 2016, the Mumbai civic body, in its decision had said that open spaces can be handed over to private players for maintenance. However, it had invited the ire of activists and they sought chief minister’s intervention, following which Devendra Fadnavis had given directions to reclaim the plots.
Samajwadi Party leader in the BMC, Rais Shaikh, said, “Those who did not hand over the open space and were using it as their own, can now make a fresh application and continue to hold the possession of the plot.” Ravi Raja, Congress leader in BMC lambasted the move, saying the corporation has enough funds to take care of its gardens and playgrounds. “I fail to understand why we need to give the plots to private players when the BMC’s garden department has enough budget to maintain its open spaces,” he said. BJP leader in the house, Manoj Kotak, said the policy was suddenly tabled and cleared in a haste. “There was a need for a debate over the policy,” he said.
Former central information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, who launched an online petition to free the city’s open spaces from the clutches of politicos, said the BMC must provide an explanation, as to why it needs third-parties to be involved in the maintenance of open spaces.
“This shows the BMC’s intention is to give away its land to private players, mostly netas. Now, people need to come out and protest, otherwise open spaces for the public will be lost gradually,” he said.