Mumbai: Citizens deprived of playground as builder refuses to hand it over

According to the 1991 DP, the 2,800-sq-metre plot was to be a public playground, but it is currently serving as the adjacent school’s private ground

In yet another example of public spaces being gobbled up by private interests, citizens have been deprived of a 2,800-sq-metre playground for at least eight years because the builder refused to hand it over to the BMC.

The playground currently comes across as RBK International Academy’s private ground, as it shares a common compound wall with the school. PIC/SATEJ SHINDE
The playground currently comes across as RBK International Academy’s private ground, as it shares a common compound wall with the school. Pic/Satej Shinde

As per the 1991 Development Plan (DP), the plot had been earmarked for a public playground. The plot was owned by Babubhai Kanakia Foundation, who built RBK International School on Chembur-Mankhurd Link Road right next to it. The foundation had been asked to develop the playground, as well as a neighbouring road, and hand them over to the BMC. The road was handed over when the school was built in 2007, but the playground wasn’t. Now, they want to keep the ground to themselves and have asked the corporation for an exemption.

When mid-day visited the spot on Thursday, the ground came across more as the school’s private grounds than a public space, as it shared a common compound wall. There was no public using the ground either, which had been enclosed from all sides, and contained a basketball and tennis court inside.

BMC ward officials, along with the DP department, have written several times to the foundation, asking for the plot to be handed over, but the management continues to seek an exemption, citing a case in Mulund where the owner was allowed to retain the plot.

A November 5 letter written by the executive engineer (eastern suburbs) of the DP department reads, “As per condition no. 25 of development permission, it is mentioned that — ‘the reservation of PG and 40 mts wide DP road shall be developed and handed over to MCGM in lieu of TDR only before allowing development on plot under reference.’ As regards above condition, you are requested to prevail upon owner/developer to hand over the plot reserved for public purpose of playground to MCGM.”

A senior official from the DP department said, “Yes, it is true that they have not handed over the plot to us. They should hand over the plot immediately, either in lieu of TDR or cash. Otherwise we will have to carry out land acquisition proceedings against them.”

He further added that an exemption could be made if the management agreed to make the plot public, but only the municipal commissioner can take this decision.

Illegal occupation
The rules say that any party can only be given permission to occupy a construction after they have handed over the DP reservations. In this case though, the builder was allowed to construct the building in 2007 by the Building Proposal department. In 2014, the builder received the Occupation Certificate (OC) for almost the entire building, except the seventh floor. The OC for this floor will likely be handed over once the builder gives up the playground. However, the foundation continues to occupy both the playground and the 7th floor.

“They don’t have permission to occupy the 7th floor. We have written several letters to this effect. I will now take legal opinion on whether I can seal the 7th floor until a decision is taken,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner (M/East ward).

Corporatorspeak

“How can the builder demand that he be allowed to retain a plot that is under reservation? He has no right. Why hasn’t the BMC taken action against him yet? Why hasn’t the illegally occupied 7th floor been sealed? They are all trying to fool citizens,” alleged local Samajwadi Party corporator Reshma Nevrekar.

She added, “The builder doesn’t want to give up the land because that will affect his school’s permits. International schools require an enclosed playground. They don’t want to lose that.”

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