Former right to information commissioner called the RG/PG policy a ‘kidnapping policy’

Mumbai : Activists, citizens’ groups, and political parties in the opposition have decided to challenge the BMC’s RG/PG policy in court. The policy that allows private bodies to adopt Mumbai’s open spaces for maintenance and development was passed in the BMC’s general body meeting on Wednesday.

While activists took to public protests to express their opposition, corporators from the NCP and the Congress parties staged protests outside the Mayor’s office and Municipal Commissioner’s office at the BMC headquarters.

Some activists have demanded that Municipal Commissioner should intervene and use his powers to ‘call back’ the policy

Some activists have demanded that Municipal Commissioner should intervene and use his powers to ‘call back’ the policy. They believe that the policy is biased in favour of corporates and takes away the rights of the common man to access open spaces.

City-based civic activist from Khar, Anandini Thakur, has decided to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in court challenging the RG/PG policy. She said, “This policy clearly permits misuse of open spaces. In the past, several open spaces have been commercialised and we must protect the ones that the city has left now.”

Shailesh Gandhi, former right to information commissioner, called the RG/PG policy a ‘kidnapping policy’. He suggested that the BMC should allow citizens’ groups to become caretakers of the open spaces, without making them legal custodians of the places. Gandhi said the most obvious reason given by the BMC for passing the policy is that the BMC does not have funds and the manpower to maintain the spaces. “The former claim is not true as the BMC has a budget of Rs 200 crore for maintaining gardens, recreation grounds and play grounds. While it is true that the BMC cannot look after the plots that does not mean they need to outsource it. The parties it chooses as caretakers can also ‘monitor’ the plots, without their legal custody,” he said.

Meanwhile, Shyama Kulkarni from the NGO AGNI pointed out that since the BMC has contended that parties that are able to spend more than Rs 3 crore per year for maintenance will be given the care taker status, none of the NGO’s Resident Associations or ALMs will be able to generate so much money. “This clause disqualifies them from contesting for adoption. By default, this policy will benefit the corporates, who will charge an entrance fee for these spaces if they spend money for maintenance,” she said.

However, an official from the BMC associated with the open spaces policy said, “This is only a policy and does not supersede any law already existent. The lower socio-economic strata of the society will not have the capacity to be caretakers anyway. And other organizations which will pitch for adoption will comprise of common citizens. So in what sense are we excluding the common man from participating in the process?”

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