A day after the Market and Gardens committee approved the proposal of increasing entry fee for the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan in Byculla, BJP city chief and Member of the Legislative Assembly Ashish Shelar publicly voiced his opposition to the hike. In a letter to municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Shelar has promised that the party will oppose the proposal when it is tabled before the standing committee, and subsequently the general body.
The proposed rise in the entry fee may lead to another confrontation between the Shiv Sena, which rules the civic body, and the BJP. While Shelar termed the fee hike an “injustice” to residents, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said that Shelar could continue writing letters.
The new fee structure proposed by the civic administration seeks tickets for children aged 3-12 years to be increased to Rs 25 from the current Rs 2 while entry fee for a family of four will be Rs 100 and Rs 25 will have to be paid for a third child. For individual adults, the fee will be increased from Rs 5 to Rs 100 which is a 20-fold hike. The monthly fee for the botanical gardens has similarly been hiked from Rs 30 to Rs 150.
Asking for the justification behind increasing the fare for the botanical gardens, Shelar, in his letter to Mehta, said, “The zoological garden is in a pathetic state and many of the enclosures don’t have animals in them. The zoo authorities who had taken up the restoration of the zoo are yet to beautify the premises. If there is no improvement in the facilities, then how can the BMC propose such high fees for citizens.”
Protesting against the proposed fee structure, Shelar said that all BJP corporators will oppose it in the standing committee and then in the general body as well. Prior to being tabled in the Market and Gardens committee, the proposal had been discussed in the group leaders’ meeting where it was passed in the absence of BJP group leader Manoj Kotak. Since BJP is currently the second largest party in the BMC, the Sena, however, will have to win the support of the other smaller parties in order to approve the proposal.
When asked about Shelar’s stand on the issue during the inspection of the de-silting work in the city on Tuesday, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in a dismissive tone said, “Let Ashish Shelar write as many letters as he wants to.”
In a series of tweets, Shelar criticised the civic administration and asked if the Mumbaikars will have to bear the cost of bringing penguins to the city. The BMC has spent over Rs 45 crores to purchase the Humboldt penguins and construct an enclosure for them at the Byculla zoo.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s expansion plans which will cost the BMC around Rs 150 crores had initially been divided into two phases. However, owing to the delay in starting the work, the BMC floated both the tenders simultaneously. “We have completed renovating nearly 60 gardens and the work on the remaining ones will be completed before monsoon. The tendering process of the two phases are in the last stage and the work on the 17 enclosures are likely to begin from October onwards,” said Sanjay Tripathi, director of the Byculla zoo. The renovation of the enclosures is scheduled to take one year and the animals will be shifted to empty enclosures during the work.