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Citizens Of Mumbai, Send This Letter To Oppose Open Spaces Auctioning Policy Of MCGM

1 August 2011 No Comment

Dear Mumbai Citizens & RTI Activists,

Our Public Spaces are again under attack by politicians and vested interests. Last month, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) proposed a new “transparent” policy for selling our remaining spaces to trusts run by municipal corporators and MLAs, and their associates.

Please object now. If you remain silent, it will be taken as your consent for the loot of Mumbai.

DOWNLOAD AND SEND THIS LETTER ON YOUR LETTERHEAD, with as many signatures as possible: http://tinyurl.com/Objection2Loot-of-Mumbai-RGPGs

MCGM’s LAST DATE FOR RECEIVING RESPONSES IS AUGUST 6, 2011. Please act now. The above letter is also copy-pasted below for you to read.

ALSO READ:

1)        Proposed policy in MARATHI posted on MCGM website: http://tinyurl.com/MCGM-RGPG-Policy-Marathi

 

2)        ENGLISH translation by Ashok Rawat: http://tinyurl.com/MCGM-RGPG-Policy-English

 

3)        Details about open spaces encroachment in Mumbai: http://tinyurl.com/Mumbai-Loot-of-Open-Spaces

 

Citispace, led by Nayana Kathpalia and Neera Punj, has alerted us to the many dangers of this proposed policy, and also the existing policy. Kudos to public-awakeners like them, and friends like Sherley Singh and Utsal Karani for their timely actions on behalf of Mumbai’s citizens.

 

DRAFT OF OBJECTION LETTER

Date-

To

Office of Asst Commissioner- Estate

Shivaji Madai, 2nd Floor

Phalton Road, Opp Crawford Market

Mumbai- 400 001

 

We object to Proposed Policy for Development of Plots reserved for Public Purposes such as Gymnasiums/Gymkhanas, Clubs, Stadiums,

Recreation Grounds, Playgrounds (RGPGs)

 Sir,

We, the citizens of Mumbai, are starved of open spaces. We believe that the entire Policy of Adoption & Caretaker should be scrapped, as it seeks to convert Reserved Public Spaces (known as recreation-grounds-playgrounds or RGPGs) into private assets. It allows the ongoing loot of public spaces to continue.

 

The proposed new policy for RGPGs was mooted by former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who is tainted by Adarsh and other land scams. Mr Chavan wanted RGPGs to be auctioned. Accordingly, Maharashtra Govt. wrote a letter to the Municipal Commissioner (CMS/TPB-4306/374/Admn. No. 338/07/UD-11 of 25 June 2010) asking for a new policy. The reason given was that the existing policy lacked transparency.

Complying with Mr Chavan’s suggestions, MCGM’s proposed policy aims to auction our last remaining public spaces. This policy lets private parties, masked as charitable and educational trusts, grab the land reserved for RGPGs.

OUR POINTWISE OBJECTIONS TO THE PROPOSED DRAFT:

1.      MCGM says that because of chronic funds shortage, it is forced to attract third-parties to develop plots reserved for RGPGs. This is a false argument. Sir, the projected cost of upgrading one acre of open space cannot exceed Rs 5 lakhs per acre (one-time capital cost) plus Rs 50,000 per month (recurring cost of maintenance), as per studies conducted by Citispace. Total cost per acre in the first year is Rs 11 lakhs. Thus, MCGM’s 1000 acres will cost Rs 110 crore in the first year, and Rs 60 crores every subsequent year. Given MCGM’s annual revenue of over Rs 5,500 crore, MCGM can afford to maintain it. WE WANT THIS WHOLE ADOPTION & CARETAKER POLICY SCRAPPED; MCGM MUST ITSELF UPGRADE AND MAINTAIN RGPGs. (MCGM’s annual budget for maintaining RGPGs has dwindled to Rs 55.67 crore. Meanwhile, 227 councilors are given Rs 454 crore discretionary funds – Rs 2 crore each for badly-regulated expenditures! Sir, where is the logic?)

2.      The proposed CARETAKER POLICY permits 25% construction on plots larger than 5000 sq.m. (a little more than one acre). This damages the city’s environment. Although the National Building Code recommends Open Spaces of 4 acres per 1000 people (13 ft X 13 ft per person), Mumbai has 0.03 acres per 1000 (13 inches X 13 inches per person). The proposed Policy encourages further shrinkage. That is not acceptable.

3.      THE PROPOSED POLICY CREATES PRIVATE COMMERCIAL INTEREST IN RGPGs. Over many decades, it has been repeatedly proved that MCGM lacks the machinery and political will to implement its own terms & conditions. Seeking premium amount from local bodies/commercial parties amounts to privatizing RGPGs and depriving the public. This is unacceptable.

4.      You have not provided a comprehensive list of various categories of Reserved Open Spaces in Greater Mumbai. You have not classified the lands to which the proposed policy applies. Under these conditions, this policy will be indiscriminately used for all public lands in Mumbai.

 

5.      The Policy claims that RGPGs will be given on ADOPTION BASIS as first preference and Caretaker Policy basis only if there are no takers for Adoption. The MCGM has no credible mechanism to reach out to local stakeholders. The terms & conditions for Adoption are so unreasonable that the option for right of first refusal to develop an RGPG is an eye-wash.

6.      The proposed policy ALLOWS EXISTING CLUBS TO HAVE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to the existing built-up structures and Open Spaces. This legitimizes private, commercial exploitation of existing Gymkhanas, Clubs, Stadia, Swimming pools, Vipasana Centres, Study Centres, etc. built with private funds or elected representative’s discretionary funds. The public is deprived of these facilities.

7.      The Policy gives Playgrounds to schools exclusively during the school-working hours. MCGM has no way of ensuring that during the remaining hours, other citizens will be given access to the grounds. MCGM always fails in enforcement; therefore this is unacceptable.

8.      With reference to ADOPTION POLICY for plots less than 5000sq.m, constructions like Gymnasiums, Gymkhanas, Clubhouse, Stadia, and Swimming-pools may be carried out only on plots specifically reserved for the purpose in the Development Plan. MP, MLA & Councilor’s funds to build gymnasiums, gymkhanas should only be used on plots where these reservations already exist. They should not be used  on Recreation grounds, Playgrounds, Parks or Gardens or other Reserved Open Spaces. So many kinds of construction leads to a completely built-up area that renders the open space reservation meaningless.

9.      Section 63(d) of MMC Act has been quoted to convey an impression that it is only a discretionary duty of the MCGM to maintain RGPGs, subject to availability of resources. This is false. Please remember that this section was incorporated in MMC Act in 1888, over 120 years ago, when open spaces were plentiful and environment protection was considered a luxury.

10.  The amendment carried out in 1994,  61(ab) viz. ‘Urban Forestry, protection of Environment and promotion of Ecological Aspects’ casts obligatory duty on MCGM to make adequate budgetary provisions to maintain Open Spaces. It is MCGM’s mandated duty to promote public health and protect the environment. RGPGs are necessary for maintaining good health, and they are aptly called the ‘lungs of the city’. Please don’t sacrifice the health of Mumbai’s citizens for the profits of vested interests.

For all the above reasons, please scrap the entire Adoption/Caretaker Policy, as well as the proposed new policy. MCGM must take the remaining Reserved Open Plots into its own hands, assign watchmen, upgrade the lands and make them available to Mumbai’s public for walking, jogging and recreational purposes. This is the only way forward for the health of Mumbai.

Yours truly

(Your Name, Address & Contact Details)

 

Copy to

  • Shri Subodh Kumar, Municipal Commissioner, Mahapalika, Mumbai.
  • Shri Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister, 6th floor, Mantralaya, Madame Cama Rd, Mumbai.

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