AFTER almost four months of speculation, the proposal to allow maintenance of open spaces by third-party caretakers is finally up for discussion at the group leaders’ meeting in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Tuesday.
While the civic administration maintains that this policy is a temporary arrangement until the final open-spaces policy is fine-tuned, the opposition parties called it a ploy to hand over plots to political leaders from the BJP and Shiv Sena, and are set to oppose it in the meeting.
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Opposition leader in the BMC and Congress corporator Pravin Chheda vowed not to allow the interim policy to be implemented. “What is the need for having a 11-month-long contract with organisations when the BMC should be taking care of the city’s open spaces? Besides, the contractors have already been hired for three years and the BMC will have to pay them. What does the BMC plan to do with them,” asked Chheda.
He questioned the civic administration’s intentions behind handing them to organisations after taking the decision to maintain them through contractors. “If the BMC is happy to give the plots back to the organisation, why did it then take them back in the first place? This interim policy is simply a way of misguiding people and favouring the BJP and Shiv Sena political leaders who are holding some of the plots,” he said.
Similar to Chheda, Rais Shaikh of Samajwadi Party and Sandeep Deshpande of MNS said they too would vehemently oppose this policy. The open spaces are public property and should be maintained by the BMC. The civic administration’s move of allowing organisations to continue maintaining the open spaces will once again lead to misuse of open spaces in the city. We will ensure that this kind of cheating does not happen and we will ensure that the administration takes back the proposal,” said Shaikh.
Sena, however, stood in support of the civic body and said the policy will help save the corporation’s money.
Reacting to the allegations of the policy being the result of political pressure from the Sena and the BJP, leader of the house and Sena member Trushna Vishwasrao said, “What else will they say? The opposition parties are against this interim policy since they want to make money from the contractors who could have maintained the gardens. Instead, with this policy, the organisations will do it free of cost and the won’t charge the public either.”
The proposal of the policy states that if a local residents association or a corporate firm is interested in maintaining any of the plots for 11 months, it would follow the norms laid by the civic body, and no construction would be allowed on the open spaces.
The terms and conditions include that the caretaker has to allow non-discriminatory and free access to the public as per the timings prescribed by the BMC. The norms also state that the plot cannot be used for any commercial purpose or political event and neither can it be handed over to a third party.