Last July, the BMC imposed Rs 5,000-23,000 penalties for parking on the road in a spot within 500 metres of a public parking lot (PPL). The policy, which was for the entire city, was modified in January, where the penalty was no longer a flat charge based on vehicle type, but a calculation that was 40 times the parking charge levied by the PPL near which a vehicle would be found.
The BMC cannot have different sets of rules for different areas of the city. The change in parking fine rules for Shivaji Park is a clear case of discrimination, and regardless of the reasons for the move — political exigency or public pressure — it must either be reversed at the earliest or the fines uniformly slashed across Mumbai so that the residents of other localities don’t suffer merely on account of their addresses.
Now, for Shivaji Park, the BMC has dropped penalties to zero from Rs 4,000— the fine for a four-wheeler (as per the January policy modification) based on the parking charge at Kohinoor PPL, the only PPL in Dadar (West). Similarly, parking on one side of 15 roads in the same area has been allowed; these roads were earlier earmarked as no-parking zones.
Advocate Pradeep Havnur, who has argued a PIL on public parking, said the move amounts to discrimination and could be tested in court.
Activist Anandini Thakoor, managing trustee, Khar Residents Association, said, “They should stick to the rule of not allowing parking near a PPL. If parking space is available close by, why should exemptions be given to park on certain roads, which will cause congestion?”
Parking pardon: BMC cites locals, but politics may be behind move
Shivaji Park had stopped following the BMC’s parking policy around the time of the assembly poll campaign. But two days ago, municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi signed an order formally granting an exemption to the area.
Additional municipal commissioner P Velrasu said, “There was a demand from residents and local political representatives to allow street parking near Kohinoor PPL. We have allowed it as there’s enough space on one side of a road. If residents near other PPLs make such a demand, we may consider their request too.”
The issue may have a political angle. Dadar is considered to be a politically sensitive area, where the Sena wants to keep its splinter organization MNS out. The local corporator, Vishaka Raut, is from the Sena, which also controls the BMC house. Shivaji Park falls in G-North ward, which covers Prabhadevi, Dadar (West), Matunga (West) and Mahim (West), and which includes the Shiv Sena’s headquarters.
During the assembly election campaign last year, MNS candidate Sandeep Deshpande had raised the parking issue. The Sena reacted immediately, asking the BMC to stop levying penalties for parking violations in the area. The BMC did not officially grant the area a policy exemption, but went slow and removed from around Kohinoor PPL signboards displaying parking fines. Soon, locals began parking their vehicles on the road.
Justifying the exemption, G-North ward officer Kiran Dighavkar said, “Most buildings here don’t have parking space, and so there’s a demand for on-street parking.”
The opposition has criticized the move. “This is selective. Did they conduct any study before taking such a decision? Did they take the Parking Authority into confidence?” asked Congress corporator Asif Zakaria, demanding answers.