WHILE THE BMC is getting ready to send out the second batch of notices to the parties maintaining the 219 open spaces, the Cuffe Parade Residents Association (CPRA) has planned not to hand over their 12,000 square metre plot without a fight. The CPRA will move court against the BMC upon the receipt of the notice since they feel that the plots are wrongfully being taken back from the citizen groups and will not be maintained well.
According to the members of the trust, they have been maintaining the plot for the past 30 years and spend about Rs 1.5 lakh per year to maintain the plot. Ashok Patel, general secretary of the CPRA, is confident that the BMC will not be able to maintain the garden well and will soon lose the plot to encroachments. “About 300-400 people visit the garden everyday and more than 15 staffers care for the plot all day. Apart from five gardeners who work on rotation basis, there are 10 security guards who work round-the-clock to ensure that the people from Shiv Shastri Nagar slum don’t move into the garden. The BMC will not monitor the ground closely enough and the garden will be lost,” he said.
Patel added that after the contract with the BMC expired, they had tried to renew the contract three times but failed each time. “How can the BMC simply ask us to give back a plot we have taken care of for thirty years when we have not violated any of the norms? This decision came out of a political issue and should be opposed. Our petition is ready and we will file it in court the minute we receive the notice from the BMC,” he said.
The BMC will float tenders this week for contractors who will supply staff for the maintenance of the 216 gardens which the civic body plans to take back in the coming six months. “We are going to outsource the maintenance of the plots and will float the tenders in another day or two. We are planning to allot about 5-6 staff members including gardeners, cleaners and guards for each ground depending on the size,” said a senior official requesting anonymity.
Other citizen groups, though agreeing to return the plots, stated that maintaining the plots are more than just basic gardening and expressed doubts over whether the BMC would be able to maintain these plots as well as they did.
Anil Kakode, one of the trustees of the Kridangan Sangopan Samiti, stated that a monthly expenditure of Rs 75,000 is needed to maintain the 5,400 square metre garden with a skating ring and a view of the sea in Mahim called Dhote Udyan. “We have four security guards and four gardeners who maintain the garden. The land belongs to the BMC and if the supervision is good then we have no problem. But the BMC can barely monitor the roads, drains and footpaths. How will they maintain the current condition of the garden let alone improve it?,” said Kakode.
Similarly, Bharati Kakkad, one of the trustees of the Union Park Residents Association, maintaining a 1,764 square metre garden in Khar since 2008, stated that the BMC should not issue a blanket rule and take back the plots from only those who have broken the norms. “We have practically rebuilt it from its derelict condition and have installed solar lights, CCTV cameras and green waste composting sites. The BMC had given the plots for adoption because they were not able to look after it and we took it on as our responsibility. I am really skeptical about the way they will maintain the quality of the play equipment including the rubberised flooring in the play area for children,” she said.
As a consequence of taking back 216 open spaces, the current staff members will lose their jobs in the coming months. Nayana Kathpalia, one of the executive committee members of the trust maintaining the Horniman Circle thus suggested that the BMC should hire the contractors supplying these staff members.
“These people have been working on these gardens for over a decade and know the place inside out and the BMC can hire them instead of hiring new people who may have no idea about the the trees planted in the garden. This idea of picking the lowest bidder will compromise with the quality of the work in maintenance of the gardens,” she said adding that the BMC should open a horticulture department to training the gardeners.