Row erupts over fee charged for use of ground in Mumbai
Activists allege sports club is charging citizens for using public ground, club denies claimsmumbai Updated: Mar 12, 2018 12:01 IST
For the past 20 years, a six-acre public ground in Malad (West) has been out of sight and out of mind for the residents of the area. While the open space is reserved as a recreation ground and must be kept open for all during daytime, Goregaon Sports Club (GSC), which maintains the ground in its premises, seems to have violated the rules.
The club was allotted the reserved open space by the state in 1998 and given development permissions by the civic body on certain conditions. One of the conditions states that it must maintain the recreation ground and keep it open for general public from sunrise to sunset.
Nevertheless, GSC has been charging citizens heavily for using the ground. According to documents acquired by the Hindustan Times, schools, corporates and non-governmental organisations are currently charged between Rs40,000 to Rs1 lakh per day for playing sports.
After local activists wrote to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) regarding the violation in July, 2017, civic officials visited the site in October. BMC officials confirmed that the club had also failed to put up a sign board for the ground, indicating that the space is free for general public.
Chief executive officer Suresh Pawar of the club claimed that a board has been placed outside the gate as per rules after the BMC notice last year.
Ajay Vichare, an activist of the area said, “The ground should be open to the public for free of cost. Municipal schools cannot even afford to use the space because of GSC’s high charges. Because there was no board to indicate that the ground is open for the public, citizens are unaware of their right to use it. They had placed the board only for a few days.”
Rajagopal N of Mindspace Malad ALM (advanced locality management) admitted that local residents had assumed that the ground is only open to members of the Club. “We were not aware about the facts until now. There are three gardens in the vicinity but they cannot be used for sports,” said Rajagopal.
Joaquim Ferraro, a former coach at the club, also said people were always charged to use the public ground. “Even individuals and small groups would be charged to play there. The general public cannot afford to use the ground at these costs,” he added.
Sunil Singhania, newly-appointed president of GSC, denied all allegations, saying, “The club has not violated any rules. The ground is open to the public. Submitting building proposal plans to BMC is for routine checks. Some people are trying to create an issue for no reason.”
Officials of BMC’s building proposal department said they found parts of basement and parking areas of the GSC building to be encroached.
However, the civic body has not yet taken any action against the club. An official in the know said, “We have informed the ward office of the open space misuse. The club will have to put up a notice board at all times. After we asked for building plans, the club architect had submitted incomplete plans, which we have rejected. If they are unable to produce authorised plans, we will take action under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act.”