Rs 40 lakh spent, yet Aarey in dumps

Swings and benches are broken and children often hurt themselves playing here. The garden, spread across more than 15 acres, is unkempt, and is sometimes flooded with water overflowing from the pond; drinking water fountains have no taps.
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Updated on Jan 29, 2011 12:16 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit, Mumbai

The popular picnic spot at the Aarey Milk colony, one of the largest open spaces in the city, is crumbling.

Swings and benches are broken and children often hurt themselves playing here. The garden, spread across more than 15 acres, is unkempt, and is sometimes flooded with water overflowing from the pond; drinking water fountains have no taps.

Strangely, Aarey Milk colony authorities claim to have spent more than Rs 40 lakh in the past three years on beautifying and repairing this garden. Authorities say they even hired a private contractor for Rs 17 lakh to maintain the garden for three years.

Residents and activists have now come together to fight against official apathy to save the garden.

Activist Biju Augustine said, "A few days ago, my nephew had come here for a picnic with his schoolmates and got injured, thanks to the rusted edges of the slides. Teachers told us such incidents are frequent here."

Another activist Ashish Patil said, "Using the Right to Information (RTI), we asked for a break-up of the cost incurred on the garden. Shockingly, we found out that they had spent lakhs on drinking water posts, which have no taps."

Residents say according to the break-up, authorities spent Rs 4 lakh on 'spreading and sending sea sand'. Sunita Churi, a Goregaon resident, involved in the campaign, said, "Leave alone sea sand, there's hardly any sand in the whole garden. Vinod Gholap, a former teacher and a Goregaon resident, said, "The playground equipment, for which the authorities claim to have spent lakhs, is rotting and broken, and is dangerous for children. How can the authorities neglect all this?"

Aarey Milk colony chief executive officer, LR Bhosale, meanwhile, blamed the children for the state of the garden.

"Even when we beautify the garden, children come and damage everything. But, we have sent another proposal to the government about refurbishing the garden."

Augustine said, "Just because children don't have a voice, these authorities take advantage."

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