Citizens' Issues
A policy for open spaces in Mumbai
Mumbai has less than 2 square meters (sq mts) of open space per person, compared to 9 sq mts, the minimum requirement laid down by WHO. We can increase our open space if we first have a clear policy on open spaces. Here is a draft of such a policy that can be discussed further
 
All cities must provide adequate open spaces for its inhabitants.  These are the lungs of the city which provide fresh air, playgrounds, recreation grounds and gardens. They are essential to ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of its inhabitants. Unfortunately, Mumbai has less than 2 square meters (sq mts) of open space per person, compared to 9 sq mts, the minimum requirement laid down by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this extremely limited space, children must play and frolic; everyone must have space for games and sports; those living in small tenements must get some space for leisure; senior citizens, who cannot afford clubs, should find a space to walk, exercise and chat, discuss and reminisce about their lives.
 
According to the Development Control Regulations (DCR) 1991, the Parks and Gardens Department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has already taken possession of 1,068 plots covering 1,200 acres of open spaces. These plots must be developed as per their reservations and function accordingly. Some additional plots are also expected to be taken over by the MCGM’s Parks and Gardens Department. Fresh policy guidelines are required for the development of such reserved plots including all plots already in possession and use.
 
Mumbai is a megacity and the financial capital of India.  The MCGM formulates development plans (DPs) in which there are specific reservations for all open spaces such as gardens, recreation grounds, playgrounds and parks. These, in turn, should be developed, redeveloped or refurbished in accordance with their reservation for the access and benefit of general public. The MCGM runs the city by elected representatives to whom citizens have given legitimacy. The bureaucracy also owes their jobs and allegiance to the citizens. There is a need for a policy for Open Spaces, which should among other objectives:
  1. Increase these spaces.
  2. Beautify and maintain them to make the citizens’ quality of life better in an equitable manner without any distinction.
  3. Safeguard these extremely valuable properties from encroachment and private acquisition.
  4. Provide for the recreation, sports and leisure needs of all its citizens.
 
A policy must attempt to serve these objectives. Here is an attempt to suggest such a policy.
 
Assumptions and key guidelines:
The MCGM is charged under Section 61 with “the maintenance of a municipal office and of all public monuments and other property vesting in the corporation”. It also has the power to make laws as per Section 461 which states:  The corporation may from time to time make by-laws, not inconsistent with this Act, with respect to the following matters:
 
(5) securing the protection of public parks, gardens and open spaces vested in or under the control of the corporation from injury or misuse, regulating their management and the manner in which they may be used by the public and; providing for the proper behaviour of persons in them;
 
Thus, it is a duty which must be performed. It is recognised that it would be a good idea to have the participation of citizens in this. There were some earlier policies by which MCGM’s Open spaces have been abducted by some private parties and such mistakes must not be repeated. 
 
Suggested policy:
The MCGM should take all its Open Spaces, which were earlier given on caretaker or adoption policies under its physical control. No Municipal Open Spaces should be given to any private party. MCGM must recognise and accept its responsibility to create recreation grounds, play grounds, parks and gardens. It may do this by giving contracts for providing various needs to protect and maintain them. 
 
Any officer of MCGM who gives any legal rights to any third party in any Open Spaces should be charged under Section 13 (1) (c ) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
 
The MCGM should display on its website complete details of agreements with contractors and also the bills and payment details, along with the inspection reports of MCGM officers. 
 
To ensure proper maintenance of the work MCGM should appoint Audit and Monitoring Agencies for three years at a time.
 
I) Eligibility criteria for Audit and Monitoring Agency: 
Applicant maybe one or more of the following:
  1. Association OR Federations of the local housing societies
  2. Resident associations
  3. Business associations
  4. Associations of shopkeepers
  5. NGO’s from respective electoral wards.
  6. Public sector undertakings (PSU’s)
  7. Government Institutions
  8. Institutions/Bodies which organise or sponsor sporting events (having presence at administrative ward levels)
  9. Educational institutes (having presence at administrative ward levels)
  10. Corporate houses 
 
II) Plot eligibility:
  1. Plots developed by the municipal corporation
  2. Plots developed using MP/MLA funds or District Planning and Development Committee (DPDC) funds (under guardian minister) or corporator fund
  3. Plots developed and preserved using funds from private institutions.
  4. Any other plot which is reserved as Open Space.
 
III) Public outreach and intimation for selecting Audit & Monitoring Agency:
Every ward officer with the advice of the zonal garden superintendent or his deputy should prepare a list of recreation grounds, playgrounds, gardens and parks. Such a list should be put up on the notice board of the ward office as well as the MCGM website.  The lists should also be published in leading English and Marathi newspapers.
 
IV) Submission requirements:
All eligible parties interested in acting as Audit & Monitoring Agency for the aforementioned plots should within 30 days of the public notice by the MCGM, submit an application along with the following documents:
  1. Statement of accounts/audited financial reports of last 3 years 
  2. Documents to establish credentials of NGO’s 
  3. Experience statement giving its experience 
  4. The proposed plan for development/redevelopment/refurbishment of the plot.  A separate maintenance plan for the same period is also to be provided.
 
If there is more than one institution volunteering to be an Audit & Monitoring Agent, an appropriate mechanism should be devised and not more than two such agents should be approved for a plot. The MCGM may then float tenders for the development, maintenance of the Open Space after finalising development and maintenance requirement with the Audit & Monitoring Agency. The MCGM should select the appropriate contractor and supervise the work. It should also provide a copy of the agreements with each contractor, the inspection report of a MCGM officer and the bills presented by the contractor to the Audit & Monitoring Agent within seven days. The responsibility of the Audit and Monitoring Agent must be to ensure the Open Spaces are properly secured and maintained. They should also audit and monitor work of the contractor. They should submit a report on the 1st and 15th of every month to the Assistant Commissioner, in which they must also report any deficiencies of the contractor’s work. The Assistant Commissioner can either take penal action against the contractor, or put his remarks if he feels that the Audit and Monitoring Committee’s report is not reasonable. If there is a disagreement in two consecutive reports, the matter should be raised to the Deputy Municipal Commissioner and if there is a disagreement in four reports, the Additional Commissioner should take a decision. If the Audit and Monitoring Committee fails to submit its report for two consecutive fortnights, it should be replaced by another. The Audit and Monitoring Committee’s report should also be displayed on the website of MCGM. 
 
The primary responsibility of maintaining and developing the Open Spaces should rest with the MCGM with the Audit & Monitoring Agency providing free assistance. 
 
(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)

 

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COMMENTS

Jyoti Dua

11 months ago

Excellent suggestion. Handing over the space to any private agency should be No No. The citizen should be associated in maintenance and upkeep. Volunteers from senior citizen should be encouraged. Revenue from Parks may be generated by advertising rights.

MG Warrier

11 months ago

Excellent suggestions. Need to be pursued by policy makers. If I am not diverting the issue, a related issue, which I tried to take up through print media, but failed to attract attention, is about cleaning the gutters in Mumbai.A short write-up on the subject I had circulated is copied below:
"The Pocket Oxford Dictionary before me defines a gutter as ‘a shallow trough beneath the edge of a roof, or a channel at the side of a street, for carrying off rain water’. In Mumbai gutter has assumed different meanings for different people. For most of us, a gutter is a trench provided by municipal corporation where dirty water get collected and people dump waste. Now, let me ‘come to the point’!
A 12 feet wide gutter flows adjacent to the housing complex in Bhandup (West) where we stay. It comes from somewhere beyond Pawai and silently flows beyond our area, perhaps terminating somewhere near Vashi creek. The stretch of the gutter from Powar Public School to some distance beyond Bhandup Railway station has huge accumulations of waste and water has no free flow. The sides of the gutter ‘house’ snakes, rats and other ‘wild life’ creatures. The gutter provides a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes and a variety of fleas.
The one kilometre stretch visible from Bhandup Railway Station supports the following:
i) Sale of about 20,000 units of mosquito repellents per month to 10,000 households.
ii) Fumigation contracts in several housing societies in the area.
iii) Builders who get vacant land in the vicinity of dirty areas at a cheaper rate!
iv) Medical profession providing healthcare support to residents in this area.
v) Savings for some families which throw their waste into the gutter.
The list is illustrative and not exhaustive. Just wondering, whether any vested interests are preventing the authorities from periodical cleaning of gutters. When normal and routine thing do not happen normally and routinely, citizens use their imagination to formulate ‘allegations’. In Kerala, at one stage, people alleged commercial interests of ‘anti-rabies medicines lobby’ to be behind supporters of ‘save street dogs campaign’!
Speaking from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had exhorted people of India to cleanse their premises. ‘Swacch Bhaarat Abhiyaan’ is a follow up of this.
In Mumbai, gutters are cleaned once in a year, sometime in May/June to ensure free flow of water to prevent flooding of streets. What is preventing Municipal Corporation from ensuring that the gutters remain clean during other periods also? If someone has an answer, express it!"

Reliance Communications pays Rs.5,384 crore for spectrum plan
Mumbai : Reliance Communications on Wednesday said it has paid Rs.5,383.84 crore to the government as fee toward spectrum sharing and trading in 16 circles for the 800-850 MHz band, two days after it announced a pact on this with Jio for nine service areas.
 
This also follows a statement by the company a week ago that while it heard from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) regarding its plans for sharing and trading in scarce airwaves in the 800-850 MHz space, it was awaiting the response in four other circles.
 
The company statement said it has already been granted a stay by the Kolkata High Court not to furnish any bank guarantee towards one-time spectrum charge, as had been demanded earlier by the government.
 
Sources said Reliance Communications wanted to pursue spectrum trading in nine circles with Jio and sharing it with Jio in 17 circles. 
 
"Sharing will eventually cover all 22 circles in the 800 MHz band. But we want some clarity in Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir," a source said.
 
Reliance Communications has a presence in all the 22 circles in the 800 MHz space, with a total of 113.75 MHz, out of which 33.75 MHz has been earmarked for Jio. This will leave the company with 80 MHz, with an option to share the same under various agreements.
 
Reliance Communications had announced on Monday that it has signed an agreement for trading and sharing of scarce airwaves, or radio frequency spectrum, with Jio in the 800 MHz band, covering virtually the entire country. A roaming agreement, it had added, was also on cards.
 
Two other developments will have a bearing on the spectrum plans of Reliance Communications -- to buy rival Aircel from Malaysia's Maxis Communications and Sindya Securities, and another to merge with itself Russia's Indian telecom arm Sistema that operates under the "MTS" brand.
 
Sources said if these two deals happen, RCom-Aircel-MTS wireless combine will have over 150 million customers in India and hold close to 20 percent of the total spectrum -- highest in country -- in virtually every band currently available to private players and every circle.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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India gears up to launch satellite every month
Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh) : India is preparing to launch one satellite every month to meet growing needs from its space-based assets, including transponders and scientific instruments, a top space official said on Wednesday.
 
"We have started this year with the launch of the fifth navigation satellite, which is a great success as it was precisely injected into the intended orbit. We are lining up a series of satellites for launch in almost every month to meet the demand," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A.S. Krishna Kumar said here.
 
The state-run space agency is bracing up to launch two more navigation satellites in February and March, followed by earth observational, remote-sensing and communications-based spacecraft from its spaceport here, using one- to four-tonne rockets with indigenous cryogenic engines.
 
"We have a long way to go, as we have to first complete the constellation of seven regional navigation satellite system (IRNSS) in the next two months and embark on other missions to launch various types of satellites for multi-purposes," Kumar told scientists at the mission control centre after the fifth satellite was precisely deployed in the intended orbit.
 
The space agency said later that the satellite (IRNSS-1E) was injected into an elliptical orbit at 20,655 km an apogee (away from earth) and 282 km perigee (nearer to the Earth) at an angle of 19.21 degrees to the equator and its intended orbit.
 
The organisation's master control facility at Hassan, about 180 km from Karnataka, will conduct four manoeuvres to position the 1,425-kg satellite in the geo-synchronous orbit in the next two weeks.
 
"With this launch, we have proved again that our PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) workhorse is a reliable rocket to carry various types of satellites for diverse applications and needs across the country," Kumar said.
 
Using strap-on boosters, the PSLV-C31 was the 33rd launch mission and 32nd successful launch consecutively since its first version blasted off over two decades ago in September 1993.
 
"Speeding up the space programmes, we had launched five missions in 2015, including four PSLV and one GSLV (geo-synchronous launch vehicle) rockets. Since July, we had launched four missions with each in August (GSLV), September and December," satellite centre director M. Annadurai told IANS.
 
With the successful launch of the GSLV in August 2015, GSLV-Mark-III in December 2014 and GSLV-Mark II in January 2014, using indigenous cryogenic engine which runs in super-cooled temperatures, the space agency plans to launch one more GSLV-Mark III as its heaviest rocket this year to carry four-tonne satellites in the geo-stationary orbit, about 36,000 km from the earth.
 
"Demand for various satellites is growing to meet national needs and other users across the country and region. Besides providing communications, broadcasting, navigation, earth observation and remote-sensing applications, we have to replace spacecraft whose 10-12 years of lifespan are coming to end," Annadurai said.
 
According to estimates, the space agency has to launch about 80 satellites over the next five-six years in the polar and geo-synchronous orbits, besides about 40 foreign satellites by its commercial arm Antrix in the next two years.
 
The space agency has also lined up second lunar mission (Chandrayaan-2) and solar observatory (Aditya-1) over the next two years.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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