During sports periods at St Elias High School in Khar (W), its 1,800 students either have to trudge to Khar Gymkhana or to the nearby Jogger’s Park, because the school does not have a playground of its own.
Ironically, right next door is a sprawling plot of 8,035 sq m, of which 5,035 sq m are reserved for a playground – the fight for which has gone on for more than 40 years now. The rest of the plot has been reserved for a police station and for housing, but slums cover a major portion of it.
After 40 years of asking the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to give the children some space to play in, the principal of the school, Sister Philomena Sequeira, is now worried that the plot might never be a playground.
“Slowly, what started out as an encroachment on the road, started slipping into the plot. As a result, a major portion of the plot now has slums, of which most have been constructed recently,” activist Raja Bunch, also a teacher at the school, said.
Bunch, along with school authorities, have been asking the BMC to clear the plot. Sister Sequeira said, “The children have lost their playground thanks to civic neglect.” The civic body, on its part, is awaiting the rehabilitation process of those currently staying on the plot.
“There has been a slum rehabilitation scheme proposed on a section of the plot. We are waiting for it to be finalised,” said Manik Kshirsagar, ward office, H West ward.
Local corporator Ashish Shelar said that he had demanded that the school be allowed to use the plot. “However, the BMC is yet to even acquire the plot. I’d even ensured a budget provision for the development of the PG, but since the BMC hasn’t acquired it, the money couldn’t be spent.”