Stepping into an ongoing tussle between warring factions of local residents over a plot of open space at Tilak Nagar, municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar rejected a local Shiv Sena corporator's attempts at fencing the playground.
Raja Chaugule, the local Sena corporator had proposed a Rs40-lakh beautification project in which a dual fence was to be installed around the 16,000 sqm Gol Maidan, along with plant shrubs.
However, not wanting to see their open space fenced, local residents approached Kumar. The project has now been halted mid-way, after spending almost Rs20 lakh.
Chaugule, however, said the residents had demanded a fence. "About five to six senior citizens came to me and said they sustained injuries while walking on the jogger's track because of children playing sports on the ground. Hence, I had to install the fences."
According to the plan, along with the external fencing of the playground, the civic body was to install another ring of internal fencing, to separate the track from the playground.
"We were never consulted before this project began. As residents of the area and stakeholders in the project, we should have been asked whether there was a need for the fence," said Clifford Rebello, of the Maidan Bachao Samiti (MBS).
Yatin Salvi, a local Congress activist and MBS member, said if the goal was to protect senior citizens, then the fencing was useless.
"The fence is such that a cricket ball can easily pass through the bars. As far as football is concerned, we had suggested installing a net near that part of the ground where football is played."
Chaugule, however, said that the residents' consent had been taken before initiating work. "When I suggested the project, I had signatures of more than 500 locals who wanted the fencing." In response, the MBS said they had signatures of more than 2,000 local residents, along with letters from 60 local residential societies, protesting against the fencing.
Kumar remained unavailable for comment. However, a senior civic official from the M-West Ward said, "Kumar has told us not to continue with the project. Since we have already spent a substantial amount of money, we will not remove the external fencing. However, we will not install the internal fencing."