Distraught at not being able to use a playground, a group of children took matters in their 'little' hands to draw the attention of authorities towards the rampant problem of encroachments in the Central Kashmir town.
Armed with cricket bats and willow sticks, a group of around a dozen children - aged between seven and eight years – marched into Ganderbal deputy commissioner Sarmad Hafeez's office taking him by surprise.
Hafeez said his staff at the mini-secretariat here informed him about a group of children wanting an unscheduled and an immediate appointment with him.
"The children wanted a playground for playing cricket and other sports," Hafeez told PTI.
The children, unhappy with playing in lawns of their houses and by the roadside wanted a playground for their outdoor games.
"I was amazed by their courage that they had come all the way to meet a deputy commissioner and seek a solution to their problem. I was touched that it was the children who wanted our attention towards the big issue of land grabbing and encroachments," Hafeez said.
He said the children informed him about how some people had illegally held a playground – a government land - in the town and planted trees there.
"They wanted me to restore the playground to them. I thought I must do something for them and immediately directed the local Tehsildar (executive magistrate) to go to the spot and submit a report about the status of the land," the deputy commissioner said.
After getting the status report, Hafeez said directed the After getting the status report, Hafeez said directed the concerned officials to restore the playground and also remove the encroachments on government land everywhere in the district.
"We identified the place and I immediately directed the officers to restore the playground. And we would do everything possible to make it worthwhile for the children to play. I have directed many concerned departments to chip-in with their efforts so that the children get better facilities," he said.
Soon, the administration informed the people of the area to remove encroachments, especially on the land identified by the children.
"I sent a team to the spot and they removed the trees planted by the locals who had grabbed the land. It is the matter of the children who must get sports facilities and I would do everything to see that they get them," Hafeez said.
The children, who have received praise for their bold and a need-of-the-hour-step, expressed happiness over getting their playground back.
"We are happy that we are getting back the playground. We faced problems and could not play freely and that was when we decided that we had to do something and so we approached the DC," one of the children, Danish Farooq said.
The deputy commissioner said the district administration would continue its drive against land grabbing and encroachment.
"We would not stop at this. We will make sure the land is freed from the encroachers wherever it has been encroached upon," he said.
The drive started by the children for a playground has led to action against land-grabbers in the district but all that the kids have their eyes set on for now is for the ground to be restored and the game to start.