Open spaces must remain public

Nov 19, 2015, 07:58 IST | MiD DAY Correspondent

Already struggling to find breathing space in the concrete jungle of Mumbai, a slew of citizens and NGOs came down heavily against the BMC’s new Recreational Ground-Playround (RG-PG) policy, which they feared would lead to even fewer open spaces. The policy was slated to be passed yesterday, but has, for now, been put on hold.

It is unfortunate that there has to be a relentless and sustained battle by citizens to save open spaces. Activists have to be eternally vigilant in this never-ending battle that is not only time-consuming, but also seeps the spirit of this city’s people. They are, after all, fighting for what is rightfully theirs. One has to feel sorry for this bunch of citizens who have to keep knocking on the doors of the powers that be, to plug the steady disappearance of the city’s grounds and parks.

Activists have pointed out that the BMC has enough funds to maintain open grounds in the city. So, why should it give up these spaces for adoption to private players? Doing so might reduce the civic authorities’ burden, but there is the danger that private players will slowly build on the land, or use their power to limit access to the public.

These fears are not unfounded; history is replete with examples of grounds where the public has slowly, but surely, been squeezed out, either with the construction of limited-access clubhouses or in other ways.

We want to see a robust partnership between people and the authorities for the upkeep of gardens and grounds in the city. Factors like security and maintenance will be the BMC’s responsibility, of course, but a citizens can certainly aid the authorities by ensuring cleanliness, and apprising the BMC of any untoward activities.

Easier said than done, but with will, Mumbai can make it happen. Let open spaces be for the people, by the people and of the people.

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