Even as the civic administration plans to do away with the caretaker clause in its new draft policy for the public recreation grounds and play grounds (RG-PG) in the city, sources in the BMC said some constructions such as open gymnasiums, gazebos, sitting areas and batting pitches would be allowed under the adoption scheme.
Under the original RG-PG policy, construction in open spaces was severely restricted. Only a space of 10×10 feet, enough to construct a watchman’s cabin, was allowed on such public plots.
“In our policy draft, we are doing away with the caretaker policy and will instead calibrate parts of it in the ‘adoption’ scheme subject to the approval of the Bombay High Court. The basic parameter underlined in the policy will be access of the general public to all RGs and PGs,” a senior official in the civic administration said.
The extent of construction to be allowed on open public spaces under the new scheme is yet to be ascertained. “Mumbai’s per capita open space is less than 1-2 sq. m. Of the 1052 vacant open spaces owned by the civic body, we have already awarded contracts for maintaining around 700 plots, leaving few for development by private players. We do not require more built-up area by way of club houses and gymkhanas. We wish to simply focus on preserving the few breathing spaces we have,” another official said.
In the original RG-PG policy which was stayed by the state in 2007, large plots were parcelled to caretakers for a minimum lease of 33 years (the adoption scheme stipulated a five year lease). The caretaker could construct on 25 per cent of the total area if the plot size ranged between 5,000 sq ft and 15,000 sq ft. For larger grounds, 33 per cent construction was allowed. In return, the caretaker was expected to maintain the remaining portion of the ground for public use and charge Rs 2-5 for entry to the ground.
However citizens’ groups found clubs such as Vihar Sports Complex Borivali, MIG Club Bandra, Matoshree Club Jogeshwari, Mandapeshwar Club Borivali and Prabodhankar Thackeray Complex flouting rules by usurping public open spaces, carrying out illegal constructions and restricting public access.
Most of these are managed by trusts with backing from senior politicians belonging to the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance of the BMC. While tight-lipped on the future of these clubs, civic officials admit they are likely to remain separate from the new policy. “These clubs function on a separate memorandum of understanding (MoU). If we are to revise the policy for them we will have to revise some of the terms and conditions in the MoU and create a separate policy for them,” the official said. He also said that in the new draft policy, RG-PG plots will be primarily handed over to advanced locality managements (ALMs), and local residents groups.
“We are giving first priority to direct beneficiaries who will only have to develop and maintain the spaces as parks and gardens without any major construction. Since it is only adoption, the financial burden involved will not be high. We are currently working on the criteria for shortlisting applicants,” the official in the civic administration added.