Pune Residents Move Bombay High Court Against PMC’s Move To Lease Out Amenity Spaces

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Mubarak Ansari

Pune, 20th August 2021: Eight prominent NGOs, Residents Associations across Pune have joined hands and moved the Bombay High Court to oppose the move of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to lease the lands meant to develop public amenity spaces to private entities at commercial rates.

Kharadi Residents Association, Baner Pashan Link Road Welfare Trust, Pune District Co-operative Housing Societies Federation Ltd. National Society for Clean Cities – Pune, Pashan Area Sabha, Bavdhan Citizens forum, Aundh Vikas Mandal, Association of Nagar Road Citizens Forum – all representing several lakhs of residents across Pune have joined hands to oppose the move of PMC in Bombay High Court.

The petition states, “Amenity spaces are the last remaining public spaces in the city and are deemed reservations which cannot be tinkered with, and this has been ruled by a landmark SC judgment.

These reserved areas have been carved out from our society building plots and ultimately paid for by citizens, therefore, these are public property and PMC as a custodian of the amenity spaces is required to develop public amenities as per the requirement of shortfall and the demands of local residents.

PMC has given reasons for covid pandemic encroachments, lack of funds although, on 13th August 2021, Corporators demanded funds as PMC’s income increased. These are only false excuses to hand over prime real estate to private entities.

The documents received under RTI Act 2005 prove that PMC has been pursuing this idea since March 2019 during which period there was no covid pandemic, also RTI replies from PMC states that there are no encroachments on any of the lands reserved for developing amenity spaces.

Citizens have a simple demand that our public amenity lands should remain with PMC and PMC needs to fulfil their constitutional responsibility under Article 243 (W) by developing the amenity spaces themselves as per the requirement and demands of the citizens.

Pune city is currently facing serious problems, lakhs of citizens face issues related to Garbage, Healthcare, Air Pollution, Flooding, Water Supply, Traffic, Parking, Electricity Supply, Encroachments, Illegal Constructions, Lack of Open Spaces, Lack of Recreational spaces etc. Instead of addressing these critical issues by using amenity spaces for the creation of public infrastructure, the Pune Municipal Corporation is trying to lease them off to private entities.

Public amenities can be developed with CSR participation; even public groups will be interested in developing amenities for their area. All this can be done without leasing public land to a 3rd party.

We oppose any proposal of transfer of amenity space reservation land by means of lease or sale to any party and demand immediate scrapping of such proposal.”

The petitioners said that these lands are acquired from private owners under the provisions of various statues and are reserved exclusively for public amenities such as roads, streets, open spaces, parks, recreational grounds, playgrounds, sports complex, parade grounds, gardens, markets, parking lots, primary and secondary schools and colleges and polytechnics, clinics, dispensaries and hospitals, water supply, electricity supply, street lighting, sewerage, drainage, public works and includes other utilities.

How will private entities who receive these lands at commercial rates develop the aforesaid amenities is the big question that is being asked? The PMC cannot wash off its hands from its responsibility to develop the amenity spaces meant for maintaining and improving the quality of life in Pune.

Elected representatives should understand that the residents of Pune are watching all the developments closely. The PMC has declared record collection of Property tax this year. Lack of funds cannot be an excuse for not developing amenity spaces. Protecting such lands from encroachment is also a statutory responsibility of the PMC. The public sentiment says that this is nothing but a daylight robbery. The quality of life in Pune will permanently deteriorate if the PMC is allowed to proceed in its move.”

Advocate Satya Muley, who is representing the petitioners, said, “The Supreme Court has time again reiterated that the spaces for public amenities such as roads, playgrounds, markets, water supply and sewerage facilities, hospitals and particularly educational institutions are essential for a decent urban life. The planning process, therefore, assumes significance on this behalf.

The parcels of land reserved for public amenities under the urban plans cannot be permitted to be tinkered with. The guidelines laid down in the MRTP Act will have to be followed strictly. The residents of Pune are the real owners of these lands, and the PMC is just a custodian. The Petitioners expect that the guidelines laid down on this behalf be followed scrupulously.

The right to live is a fundamental right under Art 21 of the Constitution and it includes the right of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life. If anything endangers or impairs that amenity spaces and thereby the quality of life in derogation of laws, the citizens have every right to assert their fundamental rights at every forum including the Judiciary. This move by the PMC shall be strongly opposed at the Bombay High court. We have prayed for an urgent hearing.”