The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has finalised guidelines for the usage of playgrounds (PG) and recreation grounds (RG). According to the new guideline, the BMC will not permit any political rally or other functions on civic playgrounds and recreation grounds. The circular announcing the decision was issued on April 19. The diktat, however, does not apply to Shivaji Park, which often hosts political rallies.
The guidelines came up after Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant met the Chief Minister on February 22. Sawant demanded that there should be a proper policy defining recreation grounds and playgrounds. Earlier, political parties could book a ground for an entire year, something that will no longer be allowed under the new policy.
The circular makes it clear that ‘the grounds can be used only for children to play in. Apart from this, the ground can be used for traditional religious purposes like Ganeshostav, Navratri, Durga Puja for not more than 30 days, including erecting and dismantling the pandal. May 1 (Maharashtra Day), January 26 (Republic day) and August 15 (Independence day) are included in the allowed festivals’.
Needless to say, political parties are not happy with the civic administration’s decision and have decided to oppose it. “We will raise the issue in the standing committee meeting. The administration should revoke the decision. Where will we hold election meetings?” questioned Yashodhar Phanse, leader of the house in the BMC.
Opposition parties too are unhappy with the verdict. “At least a few days - may be five days in a year - should be allotted for political activity on playgrounds and recreation grounds,” said Dnyanraj Nikam, leader of the Opposition. The Nationalist Congress Party however suggested that political parties be charged nominal fees. “We are ready to pay nominal fees for holding functions on these grounds,” said Dhananjay Pisal, leader of the NCP in the house.
Joint municipal commissioner S S Shinde, who is in charge of the garden department, said, “Political parties can hold rallies or their functions on other open spaces under the jurisdiction of authorities like MHADA and MMRDA, but not on BMC gardens, playgrounds and recreation grounds,” said Shinde. He also clarified that all earlier circulars on the issue would be terminated. When asked about Shivaji Park, he said, “This falls under the park category and the circular will not apply to the Shivaji Park ground.”