THIS IS VINITA DESHMUKH'S EDITORIAL PUBLISHED IN INTELLIGENT PUNE WEEKLY TABLOID DATED SEPTEMBER 19. LAND GRABBERS ARE ON THE PROWL IN PUNE SO PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO AS MANY FOR AWARENESS AND PARTICIPATION IN YET ANOTHER MASS CITIZEN CAMPAIGN.
Your open space is being snatched! Wake up, rise up and fight tooth and nail Wake up; rise up, Puneites – the land sharks are at it again! Your Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, is out to give you a sub-standard quality of life. This time he is directly responsible as he holds the urban development department (UDD) portfolio. He is testing your determination again (in 2002, his predecessor proposed 20 per cent construction on hills of old municipal limits as well as on that of 23 merged villages and 80,000 of us signed objections against this move).
Now, he wants to snatch away your playgrounds, public gardens and open spaces meant for hospitals and schools and even roads of your neighbourhood, besides the hills. All these he wants to hand them over on a platter to the builders and developers for building concrete jungles, at the expense of your precious land meant for your mandatory dose of oxygen and environmentally-friendly existence, so that they can build massive residential concrete jungles. that, as alleged by politician-cum-environmentalist Mohan Dharia who is this time again leading Puneites in a public agitation, massive money has allegedly been exchanged with the recipients being the coterie of high state-level politicians. At the receiving end will be you and me, who will have to bear increased pressure of infrastructure due to such mindless development and cry helplessly for water, electricity, roads, traffic congestion – as we all are doing today, with even the walls not listening to us.
Last time in 2002, hundreds of city's youngsters came on the streets to propel the masses to sign objections against residential construction on the hills. This time too, it is an urgent call to all to them to once again pro-actively participate in filing objections to the Development Plan of Baner-Balewadi wherein land worth Rs.1500 crores has been de-reserved for residential construction. For this, even the space for a Fire Brigade station and even a four kilometer road of 18 metre width has been removed and changed into residential zone. So, first please understand what is a DP, why citizen activists are again crying hoarse and why you as a citizen cannot remain indifferent and have to immediately participate, from today.
The background is that, in 1997 the Pune Municipal Corporation extended its geographical boundary by including 23 villages around it. Now, for every municipal corporation to have proper infrastructure and amenities, a 20 year Development Plan is made by experts. The existing land use and projected population of the next 20 years is taken into account while preparing the DP. Thus, every neighbourhood should be self-sufficient in terms of gardens, open space, schools, hospitals, fire brigade, markets, arterial and access roads and so on. Hence, the word `DP' should not interest just experts but every citizen as well. If youngsters have to live as healthy citizens and if the middle-aged and senior citizens have to leave a healthy city for its children and grandchildren, then each one of us must be concerned about the DP.
The DP made by the PMC in 2002 was insensitive enough to allow residential construction on all the hills (of merged villages). Thankfully, our local politicians with Vandana Chavan aggressively in the lead opposed it tooth and nail along with the then stalwart journalist of The Indian Express, (late) Prakash Kardaley and Mohan Dharia triggering off a massive movement and scuttling this avaricious move, through filing of 80,000 objections. Thereafter, planning expert Aneeta Benninger and other members of the planning committee made a Green DP for the merged villages, which, despite providing a bio-diversity park, open spaces, adequate amenities and so on, had a shortfall of 11.38 hectares for such citizen-friendly reservations. The PMC General Body passed the Green DP resolution for which citizens were grateful and this Draft DP was sent to the state government (urban development department) which is the final authority to sanction the DP, on December 31,2005.
The state government sat over it for three years, raising the expectation of Puneites, that, this long interval is perhaps because it will further enhance the DP as the shortfall for amenities is still 11.38 hectares in the DP Plan of Baner-Balewadi alone. Instead, citizen activists, city fathers (they are not always bad) and town planning experts received a rude jolt when the State Government released a notification for the Baner-Balewadi DP on this August 13, (understand the DP of merged villages is divided into 10 planning units. Baner- Balewadi is the first of these planning units for which the DP notification has been sent by the State Government. In the next few months you will see the DP notification for other units as well). In a shocking and disastrous move, this elite neighbourhood has been literally molested by the State Government with over 50 per cent changes in DP to suit the builder lobby.
As per rules, the State Government has the power to make changes but of course it is not expected to overlook a citizen's right for quality life. And if it makes changes above 10 per cent of the draft DP, then it has to again go back to the people and ask for suggestions and objections for which 60 day period is open, from the date of notification. In the case of Baner-Balewadi DP, the State Government has issued two notifications. In one, it has made changes for 20 reservations and said these are sanctioned and the public cannot object. The other one has been kept for public scrutiny but without maps. However, thanks to hue and cry by activists and media which splashed the news early this week, T C Benjamin, head of the UDD department told me that today (September 19) they would be issuing a fresh notification – meaning they are merging the two notifications and calling for suggestions and objections. Which means even those 20 crucial reservations are open for public scrutiny. Remember, by doing this, the chief minister has not done us a favour – he has done the damage anyway and wants us to use our strength to thwart it. How sadistic can he be!
So, here's appealing to all of you to file objections. Please call me on 98230 36663 or email me on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for any further information on how to participate in this citizen movement. The Green Pune Movement, the banner under which this campaign is being fought, is willing to hold discussions/talks on this issue for interested groups and localities. You may also email Satish Khot on email@example.com.
Get ready to join in the fight - the date for filing objections begins after the GR is released by the state government which should be in a week's time - will keep u postedVinita DeshmukhEditorIntelligent Pune