Mumbai: Activists look at ways to get open space policy scrapped

One of them will file a PIL in the matter; they will also hold a meeting on January 27, where corporators, experts and activists will put forth their point of view

The open space policy may have been passed, but city activists have not lost heart. Several of them are now looking at ways in which the policy can be scrapped and one of the activists, Anandini Thakoor, will file a PIL in the matter.

MNS members played cricket outside the general assembly hall in the BMC, to protest against the open space policy
MNS members played cricket outside the general assembly hall in the BMC, to protest against the open space policy

A public meeting will be held in the city on January 27 where corporators across party lines, experts, and activists will be invited to put forth their point of view.

Anandini Thakoor’s H-West Federation will file a PIL regarding the open space policy
Anandini Thakoor’s H-West Federation will file a PIL regarding the open space policy

The BMC came out with the draft of its open space policy, formally known as the RG/PG adoption policy, in October last year after scrapping the controversial Caretaker policy.

The policy was passed in the civic Improvements Committee, led by the BJP. However, even the adoption policy ran into much opposition with citizens, activists and politicians pointing out anomalies.

They objected to how politicians were given a backdoor entry for retaining the plots they had obtained as caretakers and to the relevance of the policy as a whole. Thus, after stiff opposition from civic activists, the BJP took a step back last year.

City BJP chief Ashish Shelar publicly voiced his objection to it, making the Sena reluctant to table it before the general assembly at the time.

Shelar had demanded that it be referred back. Despite his opposition, his own party corporators supported the policy on Wednesday and it got passed in the general assembly.

Precious space
Thakoor’s H-west Federation will be filing the PIL by the end of this month. “Our primary objection to the policy is that it is threatening to take away the city’s precious open spaces. The corporators had pledged to support citizens in the matter but they did a U-turn. We are not left with many options and filing a PIL is one of them. We have to voice our objections strongly now,” Thakoor said.

Thakoor and other activists have maintained that the civic body has enough money to maintain all open spaces themselves. They have taken legal advice already and are hopeful to file the PIL by the end of this month.

‘Policy is flawed’
Pankaj Joshi, urban planner and founder of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) said, “The policy is indeed flawed and needs a re-look. It gives away city open spaces to only the influential. Activists have been campaigning relentlessly against it and their opinion should have been considered. We should take as many measures as possible to stall it now.”

Even Indrani Malkani, founder of the NGO VCAN (V-Citizens’ Action Network) said citizens have to zealously protect every last open space of the city. “We have to be extremely vigilant now,” she said.

Besides, the activists will be writing to the municipal commissioner demanding that the policy be sent back to the general assembly.

“We will also write to the CM about it,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former chief information commissioner who has been campaigning against the policy.

“I am still hopeful that when we make people see the ill logic of what they are doing, may be the corporators themselves will be convinced. In fact, we did an exercise over the past two months wherein our volunteers called up corporators to subvert their opinion of the matter. Many pledged their support to the cause. Then, I don’t know why they changed their stance,” Gandhi said.

He maintained that the adoption policy should be scrapped altogether.

Protest in BMC
The opposition parties staged protests in the BMC headquarters on Thursday against the passing of the open space policy. While NCP and Congress resorted to traditional ways of sloganeering, the MNS protested by playing cricket outside the general assembly hall. “The policy will take away the city’s playgrounds. Then where will our kids play? That is why we have chosen this way of protesting,” MNS corporators said.

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