India Against Corruption, the Non-Governmental Organisation spearheading Anna Hazare's proposed fast, on Tuesday expressed shock at the prohibitive cost of hiring the MMRDA ground and asked the Maharashtra government to waive it entirely or allow use of Azad Maidan for the agitation.
"We were shocked to find that the average cost per day would come to almost Rs two lakh. We therefore request you to waive the entire charge or allow substantial financial relief," Praful Vora of IAC, said in a letter to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The letter sought immediate intervention of the chief minister, saying "the matter is most urgent", a day after the NGO secured permission from MMRDA to use its ground in Bandra-Kurla complex.
After IAC members met Anil Wankhede, assistant metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, conveyed that the civic agency was willing to allot the ground for the stir between December 26 and January 10.
"It is binding on the government to provide for protests by citizens for their needs in a democratic manner," Vora said in the letter.
"There is no doubt that a very large number of citizens will join the fast and visit the site. This is likely to strain local resources. In view of this issue, it was suggested to us to examine the MMRDA grounds as it has ample space for visitors from all over Maharashtra and India."
The NGO pointed out that it is a "not-for-profit" organisation and was working for a public cause. "We do not allow surrogate advertisements or allow any lateral promotion
of commercial products or services. The entire cause is in national interest to struggle for governance reforms," the letter said.
"If exemption in the huge costs at MMRDA is not possible, it is our request that adequate arrangements be made at Azad Maidan to enable citizens to join the protest of Annaji from December 27. We believe that 50,000 to 100,000 visitors will want to visit every day," Vora said.Sources in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority said Team Anna would be required to pay Rs 34.8 lakh for using the ground for 15 days.