The shamiana (tent) was still up. Workers were rolling back carpets lazily and paper plates with leftover food were all around. One corner of the ground had a pile of garbage. Welcome to the stadium at Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi.
Spread over about 10 acres, the Punjabi Bagh stadium is flanked by two big parks, and is the biggest open space available for play in all of west Delhi. The stadium and its adjacent parks are the venue for weddings, religious functions and cultural fairs — everything but sports.
Built in 1983 and owned by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), this ground is the first choice of venue for anyone getting married in west Delhi.
“I have never seen any sports activity here ever since it was built,” said Rajinder Singh, a resident of Moti Nagar, a locality close to Punjabi Bagh. “The place has been hijacked by tentwallahs and it is always booked for weddings and other functions.”
“Officially, the MCD can let out the stadium for functions only five days in a month,” he said.
“I have been living next to this stadium for the 20 years and have never seen any sports here. It's a stadium just in name,” said Honey Gulati, a Punjabi Bagh resident. “The place sees no maintenance by the MCD and the large number of functions held here leaves the place in a mess.”
Traffic is also a nightmare here.
“The weddings lead to traffic jams in the colony. Then, the leftover food rots and stinks,” said Gulati. “We are lucky to have such a huge open space in our area, but it needs to be maintained.”
Like the Punjabi Bagh stadium, there are a large number of open grounds and parks in Delhi that double up as wedding venues.
These are the only option for people who cannot afford to hold weddings at expensive farmhouses, banquet halls or clubs.
Before January 1, 2010, the MCD let out 675 parks in Delhi for holding social functions, but the number has now come down to 144 following an order from the Supreme Court.
People also often hold functions at public parks without permission.
Also, out of the total 272 municipal wards in the city, 128 have no community centres.
This is why the brunt of holding these weddings falls on the colony parks and playgrounds.
Inderpuri, another area in west Delhi, suffers a similar fate. The area has two big parks, but everyone except the residents uses them.
“There is some function or other happening at the park all the time,” said Rampal, a member of the Inderpuri RWA. “When it’s not time for weddings, religious functions or public meetings take place here.”
Encroachments are also eating up the space. “Though no commercial activity is allowed at the Punjabi Bagh stadium, shops have encroached upon the area,” said Ashwini Chowdhury, a resident of East Punjabi Bagh.
In south Delhi’s New Friends Colony, there are slum dwelling at the park. “There is a slum in the middle of our colony, on a ground that was supposed to be used as a park by us,” said Gagan Khosla, a resident of Block D, New Friends Colony.
“We have complained to the MCD many times but no action has been taken,” he said.