Mumbai: Cong-Sena clash over garden leaves development in limbo

While Congress corporator Naina Seth wants Matunga’s Homavazir garden to become a playground, Sena corporator Trushna Vishwasrao says that the garden is a recreation ground, not a play area

At a time when open grounds for children have become scarce, the development of Matunga’s iconic Homavazir garden is stuck due to a fight between two corporators. This garden is spread over an area of 5,500 sq m.

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The garden now looks like any other playground in the city. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The garden now looks like any other playground in the city. Pics/Bipin Kokate

As per the original plan, there was to be a children’s play area and a small football field. While the local Congress corporator Naina Seth supported this, Shiv Sena corporator Trushna Vishwasrao got another architect to submit a fresh plan, as a few locals didn’t want a play area. It’s been three months now, but nothing has happened since then.

Homavazir garden was always a recreation ground, as this BMC signboard states very clearly
Homavazir garden was always a recreation ground, as this BMC signboard states very clearly

Locals had opposed the BMC’s plan of creating a children’s play area there, following which a fresh plan was submitted to the civic body. While the plan remains stuck with the Heritage committee, the garden — without a gate, adequate lights or a high enough boundary wall — has become a den of nuisance for nearby residents.

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Drinking, smoking and riding motorbikes inside the garden has become rampant after sundown, much to the annoyance of local residents. Homavazir garden is located close to Matunga’s Five Gardens, but looks like any other playground in the city.

Locals fondly remember this as a green garden with a lawn and several trees. Eventually, with sports being played here, the lawn vanished. Children, as well as youngsters, frequent the garden to play football and other sports.

In the beginning...
It all started when the BMC, as part of its plan to revamp three other gardens, tried to revamp this one as well. While the work of the neighbouring Indulal Buva garden was completed, that of Hooper garden and Nappoo garden is expected to be complete by December.

Homavazir had always been a recreation ground, and a BMC board put up at the entrance declares the same. But the BMC has planned a children’s play area here, along with a small football field. The original plan also has concrete pathways, lights, security cabin, etc. But citizens allege that they were not taken into confidence while this was being done.

“We were not consulted when the original plan was made. We found out about it only when the work of the compound wall began. We then raised our voice against it, since this garden is clearly marked as a recreation ground in the DP.

How can they have sports facilities here? Besides, we took an objection to the large security cabin being built there, because we think the watchman will start staying there with his family. None of this is required. All we want is a lawn,” said Firoza Kapadia, a resident.

Kapadia, along with others, then approached Sena leader Trushna Vishwasrao for intervention. Vishwasrao visited the site in July and ordered the Garden cell to stop work as per the original plan. The focus then shifted from the garden to the tussle between Vishwasrao and Naina Seth who is the local corporator.

There were reports of how the Sena corporator was trying to attain dominance in the Congress corporator’s area. Meanwhile, work was stopped and a new plan was submitted to the cell, which in turn forwarded it to the Heritage committee. Since then, the citizens have not heard from the civic body and the work remains stalled. Neither Vishwasrao nor Seth have followed up.

Nefarious activities
Meanwhile, the garden has fallen into disrepair without a gate, a part of the compound wall is missing, and there are neither enough lights nor any security. “During daytime, a lot of men also come to this playground to play and are seen changing clothes there.

At night, people sit smoking, drinking there. There are broken glass bottles on the ground, due to which we have stopped taking children and dogs to the park. What’s more, about a month ago, there was a robbery in my building and the thief ran towards the garden to hide.

For how long will this continue?” said another resident, Pearl Kavasmaneck. She also complained of bikes parked haphazardly outside the garden and people riding bikes inside the garden sometimes. When asked about the garden, officials from the Garden cell said that they were waiting for a final plan from the Heritage committee, only after which work can be started.

“We will provide security if people request us to. But right now it is not possible to provide security 24x7, that will only be possible after the work is complete. But the garden has been notorious for drug peddlers from the beginning; it is not that the removal of the gate has led to this situation.” said an official from the Garden cell.

Corporator speak
“It was the locals who approached me to intervene. They believe there is no need for a playground since there is one nearby. All I want is the people’s will to prevail. Let them have their way,” said Sena corporator Trushna Vishwasrao

“All I want to say is why are they protesting now? They should have approached me sooner. It’s taxpayers’ money that is getting wasted. If they want the plan changed now, that’s all right. After all, the garden is for the people. Let the BMC do it the way the people want,” said Congress corporator Seth.

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