In an apparent attempt to corner the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has written to Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar asking that the proposed entry fees for seeing the penguins be cancelled and entry made free permanently. Sena leaders said a decision would be taken after discussing it with all party group leaders. The civic body has thrown open the penguin enclosure for public viewing at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan also popularly known as Byculla zoo on March 18.
At present, the zoo authorities charge a nominal cost of Rs 5. However, the civic body has proposed increase the entry fees to Rs 50 for children and Rs 100 for adults. However, the proposal is awaiting approval from the group leaders.
Sangita Gyanmurti Sharma, a BJP corporator from Malad (E) has stated in her letter that the civic body is not a money making body. “It has more than Rs 61,000 crore deposits in the banks. The citizens are already paying multiple taxes to the civic body and they should not be burdened with any new charges,” said Sharma.
She further said BMC is supposed to provide services to people. “The children and their parents have been coming in large numbers to see the penguins from Mumbai and across the state. Currently, the penguin viewing is free till March 31 and it should be kept free permanently,” Sharma added.
Mahadeshwar said the decision would be taken at the group leaders meeting on Saturday. “If the BJP has made such a demand, then it will be placed before the group leaders meeting tomorrow to take a decision on it,” he said.
Zoo authorities said the proposal is not yet approved by the civic body. “We only charge nominal entry fees and that will be continued,” said Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo. The penguin enclosures are drawing huge crowd. While the visitors on weekdays are around 15,000, the number goes up to 35,000 on weekends. Most of these visitors are children, he said.