Like the Kannamwar Nagar playground controversy where Mayor Dattaram Dalvi, ruling over residents’ objections is determined to build a spectators’ gallery, another recreation ground at Currey Road in Lower Parel is also facing the same fate.
Here, backed by local Shiv Sena MLA Dagdu Sakpal and corporator Sudha Meher, the BMC has allocated Rs 1.60 crores to build a full-fledged indoor stadium on this 9500 square metres open ground, popularly known as ‘Godrej Ground’, since the company handed over this place to the BMC in 1997. The plot, earlier owned by the company, fell under the reserved category for recreational ground.
Citizens are aghast over the BMC’s proposal to build a cafeteria, car parking, table tennis room, changing rooms and toilets on this ground. They fear that these facilities are being created in order to facilitate the handing over the place to private party as old chawls in the vicinity are being replaced by towers.
The citizens have formed an organization ‘Nagrik Sangharsha Samiti’ and have launched a series of agitations like signature campaigns and protests meetings over the last two months. “This is the only major ground in our area and the proposed stadium would only serve to decrease the size causing inconvenience to the sportsmen,” said Sharad Shringare, Working President of the Samiti. “How will the residents in the labour class area benefit by the proposed cafeteria and parking slots? This only confirms that this ground would soon be privatized putting it out of our reach,” said Shringare.
For the residents of Lower Parel, Dellai Road and Lalbaug, this is one of the biggest grounds and locals can be seen playing matches throughout the day. The residents have been able to get the plans from BMC only after applying under Right to Information Act.
When HT contacted Sakpal, his assistant revealed that he was busy in a family function. Meher though told HT that plans had the support of local residents. “There are just handful of people who want to tarnish our name and they are just spreading canards against us. The stadium would just have reading room and Yoga room along with toilets,” said Meher who dismissed any claims of handing over the plot to private parties.
Local lad Dinesh Dharia who spends over four hours playing cricket on the ground has opposed the plans and wants BMC to reconsider the plans. “I stay at Dellai road and travel over 20 minutes to reach the place. Where will we go if the ground is given to rich people,” asked Dharia. Citizens have warned of street agitations if the plan is not revoked. “If our boys are not allowed to play, they would turn to crime. It is our right to have public grounds,” said Sashikant Phansekar, President of the Samitee.