The BMC's strongest defence of its RG-PG policy is that it will bring in greater accountability for the maintenance of the city’s open spaces under the RTI Act. But this claim falls flat, according to former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who said there is simply no provision under the RTI Act for this.
“The BMC said that the agreements for the maintenance of the grounds will contain a clause putting them under the ambit of the RTI Act, but that will not be in concurrence with the law, said Gandhi.
He added that the civic body had launched similar schemes in the past that had allowed others to grab the land and make profits out of it. “Earlier also, under various titles like the Caretaker policy, plots were given out to organisations. Over a period of time, various permissions were given, gymkhanas and gymnasiums came up and people amassed wealth through them. In some instances, the NGOs taking care of gardens were good, but rogues took over the land, as it often happens,” explained Gandhi. The BMC can easily afford to pay the Rs 100-Rs 150 crore it will take to maintain the grounds on its own, said Gandhi, adding, “At least, if the plots remain with the BMC, there is a feeling of combined ownership and we still hold some claim on the spaces. That’s why this new policy is irrelevant.”
The ex-CIC chief said the new RG-PG policy is not as atrocious as previous schemes, but that does not mean they should accept it. Countering the BMC’s claims that it is pushing for the new policy to introduce more accountability and to encourage more public participation in the upkeep of gardens, he said, “If the BMC wants public participation in designing and maintaining gardens, that can always be done without a policy.”
Some have qualms that that the policy will favour corporates, with their deep pockets and great influence, but the BMC said the policy would give greater preference for citizens’ groups and NGO. Gandhi remained unconvinced: “BMC says the policy will give preference to citizens’ groups over corporates. How? Why has that not been mentioned in the policy? Why has this been left open to the interpretation of a BMC official, and therefore so subjective?”