WITH the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation set to resume the process of taking back recreation grounds and gardens given to private parties for maintenance, at least two plots being maintained under the guidance of BJP MP Gopal Shetty and others by politicians-led private groups will be returned to the civic body. The BMC is yet to take back 91 plots given on adoption.
The BMC’s garden department will take the plots back in three phases and will issue the first list of plots next month.
Of the 91 plots, around 27 are controlled by politicians or politically-affiliated groups across party lines. Apart from Swatantra Veer Sawarkar Udyan in Borivli West and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Kridangan in Kandivli West, which are maintained by the Poisar Gymkhana under the guidance of Shetty, other grounds to be taken back include the St Xaviers Ground in Parel, currently maintained by the Mumbai District Football Association chaired by Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray.
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Shetty had earlier demanded that the BMC pay the money the Poisar Gymkhana had spent on the development of the plots. Maintaining this stand, Shetty told The Indian Express Monday, “We developed the plots eight years ago and we spent around Rs 10 crore on their development. If the BMC wants to take the plots back, they should return the dues of the funds we have spent for the public.”
Other plots include a 25,000-sqm recreation ground maintained by Aarey Bhaskar, which has Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu as one of its trustees as well as five plots in Kandivli East by BJP MLA Ramesh Thakur. Despite several calls and messages, Thakur could not be reached for comments.
The list also includes venues for sports activities and training sessions which charge a fee, contrary to clauses mentioned in the draft of the adoption policy, such as the 19,000-sqm ground maintained by the Dilip Vengsarkar Foundation in Mahul as well as St Xaviers Grounds in Parel.
During a meeting of various group leaders in the BMC on October 3, while Opposition parties’ had objected, the Shiv Sena and the BJP had given their consent to the policy. Later, the BJP changed its stand and stated that the BMC should maintain all the open spaces on its own.
However, senior civic officials stated that they have tabled the proposed policy and it is likely to come up for discussion in the next general body meeting. “In order to remove people’s apprehensions over the maintenance of the city’s open spaces, we have decided to take all of them. The general body will now have to approve the policy as well as the appointment of the committee that will decide the parties who will maintain the plots,” said a senior official. The BJP’s shifting stand on the issue, however, makes the fate of the policy unpredictable.
The official added that once the policy is passed, the committee will first consider organisations who have a good record of maintaining the plot. The committee will comprise the additional municipal commissioner, the deputy municipal commissioner of the garden department and the local ward officer.