BMC too scared for parks and retribution as politicians still control open spaces

Jul 02, 2018, 17:19 IST | Laxman Singh

Activists allege that civic body is dragging its feet on reclaiming grounds that are under the control of senior BJP and Shiv Sena leaders

BMC too scared for parks and retribution as politicians still control open spaces
Sena minister Ravindra Waikar converted an open space at Jogeshwari into the pay-for-use Matoshree Arts And Sports Trust Complex and Club

Six months after the state government announced that it would take back 29 open spaces still under the care of private trusts and NGOs, the civic body is still dragging its feet. Activists have alleged that this is because most of these grounds are under the control of senior BJP and Shiv Sena leaders.

Last year, after severe criticism from activists and citizens, the civic body had initiated action to take back all 216 open spaces that were given to various NGOs and trusts for maintenance under the controversial adoption and caretaker policy.

The Corporation's Garden Department has reclaimed 187 open spaces so far, but has put off taking back the remaining 29 grounds and parks. Many of these open spaces have been converted into money-spinning clubs with restricted entry. During an Assembly session on November 18, 2017, Minister of Urban Development Department Ranjeet Patil had assured that they would soon reclaim these spaces.

Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli (West) is one of two grounds under the control of BJP MP Gopal Shetty File Pics
Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli (West) is one of two grounds under the control of BJP MP Gopal Shetty File Pics

Officialspeak
Jeetendra Pardesi, superintendent of the Garden Department, did not respond to requests for a comment. A senior civic official said, "The government's order copy came to us very late, and it has specified very little regarding taking back the politicians' plots. It only says to take action as per the policy. Now, we will start issuing notices to these remaining plots soon. Since politicians are involved, there is a lot of pressure to delay the process."

He added, "Out of 29 plots, four trusts have also moved the Bombay High Court against BMC's action. In the next few weeks, we are hopeful the stay order will be vacated."

'Don't need green signal'
The four plots the official referred to are Priyadarshini Park, and grounds at Jogeshwari, Goregaon and Borivli. Speaking to mid-day, activist Shakeel Shaikh from Kurla said, "The BMC is scared of taking back plots from political leaders. They were very quick to take back open spaces from citizen groups and NGOs, but now that all the remaining plots are with political parties, they are dragging their feet. Why are they are waiting for further instructions from the government when it already clear that all open spaces have to be taken back ?"

Shailesh Gandhi, former chief information commissioner (CIC) who has been fighting to save open spaces, said, "There is no need of a separate order to take back the remaining open spaces. It is difficult to say whether there is some vested interest or if they are scared of taking back plots from politicians, but it is clear that they are not doing their duty to the citizens."

Park politics
Open spaces yet to be taken back include:

  • Swatantra Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Kridangan in Kandivli (both maintained by BJP MP Gopal Shetty's Poisar Gymkhana)
  • A plot in Goregaon maintained by Sena minister Subhash Desai's Prabodhan Foundation 
  • St Xavier's ground in Parel maintained by Mumbai District Football Association, which is chaired by Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray
  • Aarey Bhaskar in Goregaon controlled by Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu
  • A plot in Vile Parle maintained by Sena leader Ramesh Prabhu's trust
  • Matoshree Arts And Sports Trust Complex and Club in Jogeshwari controlled by Sena minister Ravindra Waikar

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