'Open spaces policy might not be perfect, but it's necessary for accountability'

Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas, one of the officials who drafted the largely unpopular Recreation Ground/Play Ground Policy explains to Varun Singh why the BMC needs such a scheme

Q. mid-day: Has the BMC decided to reintroduce the caretaker policy due to shortage of funds?
A. Srinivas: I’m surprised the RG/PG policy has run into controversy. The BMC has sufficient funds. The idea is to increase public participation in maintening open spaces. We are even welcome to handing over charge to anybody else who is interested.

Additional Municipal Commissioner  SVR Srinivas
Additional Municipal Commissioner  SVR Srinivas

Q. mid-day: There are many open spaces currently managed by private parties. Many are opposed to the policy as well. How would you respond to them?
A. Srinivas: There are 225-odd open spaces across the city maintained by citizens and groups under the Caretaker policy. Their term is coming to an end. Some of them are part of the protesting force. We don’t mind taking back control of those spaces if they so wish.

BMC's Recreation Ground/Play Ground Policy

Q. mid-day: Critics allege that the policy favours corporates. Is this true?
A. Srinivas: The policy is very clear about the fact that citizens’ groups will be given preference. Corporates do not have any tangible profit in this, so the only motive could be usurping the land. Why will we let that happen?

Q. mid-day: Former CIC Shailesh Gandhi alleges the earlier Caretaker Policy was even worse, but the BMC got away with it because of low public awareness...
A. Srinivas: It can’t be said the level of awareness is higher now, because there is no way of measuring it. Ten years from now awareness will be greater.

Q. mid-day: What is the difference between the older Caretaker policy and the new ‘Adoption’ policy?
A. Srinivas: We are trying to make organisations more accountable for the gardens they are in charge of. For starters, we will bring them under the Right To Information Act. Unlike in the past, no constructions will be allowed in these open spaces, except to build toilets. This will put an end to past incidents where construction was carried out in parks by the caretaker organisations.

Q. mid-day: Many say the policy is flawed. As someone who had a large hand in drafting it, what do you have to say about these claims?
A. Srinivas: I am not saying that it is a perfect policy, but it will, at least, introduce some regulation. Improvements can be further added in the policy through circulars, as and when needed. It took me more than one and a half years to convince various parties so we could bring the open space policy to where it is today. The city needs a policy, and we are giving it one.

Policy needs changes, say political parties
Voices
Rais Shaikh, Group leader, Samajwadi Party
The policy will allow organisations handling gardens to charge an entrance fee. Why should anyone be charged to enter a BMC garden? The new policy also does not ensure that action will be taken against those who broke the rules under the earlier Caretaker Policy and constructed clubs inside parks. The BMC’s new policy is flawed

Sheetal Mhatre, Congress corporator, R-North Ward
BJP’s Ashish Shelar must be opposing the RG/PG policy in an effort to appease the NGOs and ALMs (Advanced Locality Management groups)


BJP's turnaround

BJP’s group leader in the BMC, Manoj Kotak explains why the party is now asking for a review of the policy when its own corporator chaired the Improvements Committee that had passed it

Q. mid-day: Why are you now demanding that the RG/PG policy be reviewed when BJP corporator Prakash Gangadhare chaired the Improvements Committee that had passed it? Why weren’t the citizens’ suggestions taken into account then?
A. Kotak: Citizens are discussing the policy and coming up with suggestions only now, so we are asking that their views be considered.

Q. mid-day: BJP MLA (Bandra-West) Ashish Shelar has demanded that the policy be sent back to the Improvement Committee. Is he only doing this now because of complaints from citizens’ groups that form a majority of the voting population in his constituency?
A. Kotak: No. We are not against the policy. We just want citizens’ suggestions to be considered, but the policy itself is necessary and is here to stay.


Also read...

BMC's open spaces policy: The big Mumbai con

BMC's claims of more accountability under RTI Act are not true: Ex info chief Shailesh Gandhi

One of Mumbai's oldest open space warriors calls the BMC's bluff

Save Aarey activist shows how its done

Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar seeks to review controversial open space policy

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