Mumbai: BMC may call the cops to take back open spaces

Jan 28, 2016, 07:10 IST | Tanvi Deshpande

Today is the deadline for handing back plots to BMC; two of 36 organisations have approached HC over the matter

While today is the deadline for handing over open spaces, so far only four of the 36 organisations and trusts issued notices, have agreed to hand them over. The BMC has taken over its first open space already, while the organisations maintaining these four have given confirmation letters stating their approval. Since the civic body has to take over these plots today, it may even call for police protection if required. Two of the 36 organisations sent notices by the BMC have moved the Bombay High Court in the matter.

Also Read: Locals sure BMC will not maintain their garden as well as they do

After kicking up a storm with its revised open space policy last year, the BMC had received flak from activists, citizens as well as corporators. Following the tremendous backlash, the CM ordered municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta to review the policy and take back all the open spaces given on adoption basis. There are 216 open spaces in the city, which have been given to various trusts, NGOs, citizens’ groups, corporates etc on adoption basis. The civic body last week issued notices to 36 of these and they were given seven days to comply.

Representational pic

Only recently, the BMC was handed over Prabhadevi’s Sane Guruji garden, which became first of the 36. “Four others have given us letters saying they are willing to hand over the plots. Some have agreed orally while we haven’t heard from the others. In either case, the procedure has to be done on Thursday,” said Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of gardens.

Read Story: Mumbai's open space warriors win! CM asks BMC to take back open plots

Some are upset with the decision to make them handover the plots. The two organisations which have approached the court include MET, which maintains Vaidya Kridangan at Bandra Reclamation and M/s Educational and Welfare Foundation which maintains P T Mane Udyan in Nagpada.

“They have approached the HC but it has told them they will have to handover the plots since we had already filed caveats. May be they can ask for an extension. There is a hearing tomorrow. Final decision hasn’t come yet,” BMC PRO Ram Dutonde told mid-day yesterday.

Police protection
“We may have to call for police protection if required. We will paste a notice on the entrance of the plot and put up a BMC board if it is not there. We will also put up our own locks and security. But if there is no opposition, the process can happen smoothly. We will complete the handover formally,” said deputy municipal commissioner (gardens) S S Shinde.

Also Read: Private players claim BMC can't maintain open spaces on its own

“We have agreed to hand over the plot. It is their property and they have the right to ask it back. But lets hope they maintain it well. Horniman Circle is one of Mumbai’s icons,” said Nayana Kathpalia, whose trust maintains the Horniman Circle garden. The trust was one of the 36 organisations that had got a notice.

“The local residents say that BMC will not be able to maintain these plots the way we did. Besides, we have employed so many staffers. What will happen to them?” said Neelam Nijhara, whose organisation maintains the Buddha garden in Worli.

Activists meet
Some activists met on Wednesday to discuss the policy and reiterate their demand that all open spaces must be maintained by BMC. The meeting was attended by representatives of various political parties, activists and residents. They expressed concern about a policy paralysis in case it is not reviewed soon as directed by the CM. Deputy Mayor Alka Kerkar assured them that all gardens and plots will be maintained by the BMC.

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