The Mumbai police don’t often get good press. But here’s an instance where an entire neighbourhood will thank our men our men in khaki for making life that much better for them.
The area in question is a swathe of residential complexes in Ghatkopar East, across from Garodia Nagar.
Before 2000, it was an inhabitable marshland lined with sewage and slush. Today it has become a valuable stretch of real estate. And the cornerstone of this development is the Maharashtra State Police Sports Complex that was built over a period of two years, from 2001 to 2002.
Situated at the end of the Vallabh Baug lane, near Garodia Nagar, the Sports Complex was inaugurated on the 1st of February 2003. The people instrumental in converting this dumping ground into a hub of activity constitute a formidable line-up: Rakesh Maria, then Railway Police Commissioner and now Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime); then-Director General of Police AN Roy and then-Additional Director Generals of Police Subhash Malhotra and S Chakravarty.
Remembers Maria, “The area now occupied by our stadium (which overlooks the highway) was once marshy land that used to dry up for only three months of the year. For the rest of the year it was a wet patch that stank with the smell of the overflowing gutters that ran through it. And the parade ground on the other side was used by local residents just as a short cut to the buildings on the other side.”
Arvind Khade, a police constable at the Sports Complex, who has been living in the area since 1984 says, “The sewage gutters stretched on for at least 50 to 80 metres. When the work started, we had to fill the land by five feet in some places and seven feet in others.”
“Earlier, the Railway Police and the State Police used the grounds in Naigaon, and often there was not enough space or accommodation for everyone. Since we have a good culture of sports, we decided to create one complex where the State Police would have all the facilities under one roof,” says Maria.
The six acres of land that is now the Sports Complex is divided into a hockey stadium, with a lush green turf and a multi-purpose parade ground with facilities for football and athletics. The complex also has a basketball court. The State police use it as a practice ground for hockey, football, kabbadi, basketball, rugby and athletics. The 51st All India Police Hockey Championships were also held here. Apart from the sports ground, there is also a mess and accommodation for the teams that practice here. A sports officer is permanently stationed at the complex.
The sports complex has also turned out to be a boon for citizens since it is flood-lit. During festivals such as Navratri, the stadium sees up to 12,000 people attending the dandiya-garba events. Marriage parties also frequent the area in the wedding season, and the volleyball court is especially popular with 15 to 20 marraiges taking place there in that period. Residents of the area also use the grounds for morning walks.
The bigger change however, is the real estate development that has taken place in the area in the last six years. Two high-end complexes — the Kukreja Palace and Sudha Park — flank the Sports Complex on either side. According to Jignesh Dedhia, the owner of Aakar Property Management, which operates in the area, the going rate for a flat in Kukreja palace is currently Rs 13,000 to 14,000 per whereas in Sudha Park, the rate is Rs 10,000 for the plots facing the highway and Rs 11,000 per sq ft for plots facing the inside road. The presence of a ‘Kangaroo Kids’ crèche and playschool and BM English-Speaking Academy in the Kukreja Palace complex is also a good indicator of hwo commerce has flourished alongside.
“There are only three good complexes in Ghatkopar East that people can choose from, and two of them are Kukreja Palace and Sudha Park,” says Dedhia. “The area is not too cramped, there are facilities like a garden and clubhouse, and enough parking space. There is also good connectivity thanks to a new road under construction that will connect the area to Navi Mumbai and the Eastern Express Highway.”
As a result of the new complexes, old buildings in the area are being re-developed into better looking complexes. However, there will always be one green patch — that of the Sports Complex. As Bharath Bhanushali (34), a businessman who recently moved to Sudha Park says, “Thanks to the police grounds there is no construction possible, keeping the area open and green. The spaciousness of this area is its strength.”
A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality