Children fear to tread unkempt Malad park

Citizens say while BMC collects money for functions on the premises, it has spent none on its upkeep for 24 years; a 10-yr-old fractured his hand while playing here, another allegedly got jaundice after drinking from its tank

The Raje Shahaji Krinagan, also known as Shivaji Chowk, at Malad (West), one of the biggest open spaces in the suburb, wears a scruffy, dishevelled look. While a water tank on the premises is infested with worms, the washrooms are unusable. The grass grows shaggy and rank in odd patches, making it a convenient haunt for strays drifting in. The entrance gate doesn't shut, the boundary walls are disintegrating, and the sculptures of Shahaji, Shivaji and Jijamata, carved in bas-relief on the outside, have been disfigured. Out of the 25 lamps, only three work. The ground is jagged and patchy, causing children at play to stumble and fall.

The broken boundary walls of the Raje Shahaji Kridangan in Malad

Sanjay Makwana (10), fractured his hand a week ago while playing on the ground. "We play cricket here everyday. But the ground has become so uneven that I tripped and fractured my hand last Sunday," he said. 

Dhipesh Bhil (14) said, "Our parents tell us to play games that do not require us to run on the ground. But cricket is our favourite game, how can we not play it?"

Dumping ground: The trash dumped inside the playground.

Built into a playground for the locality's children by then corporator Madhukar Raut in 1987, the ground has since seen little repairs.

Ganesh Patil, president of Shri Bal Mitra mandal that organises an 11-day Ganpati on the ground, claims that he and many residents have complained to the BMC several times over the last year. "Because of its shoddy state, we had a 100 people sign a petition to the BMC and the corporator, Billaji, asking them to improve its condition.
The toilets, chairs and lighting here are also in a shabby condition. Officials only make empty promises. And when we try and undertake repairs, they tell us not to, since it is a public ground, and only civic authorities can do works on it."

But Vinod Chawla, vice-president of the mandal, said, "To collect money for various programmes held here, the BMC remembers the ground. But to maintain it, they want those who use it to run from pillar to post in order to register a complaint. Why is our money not being used for our welfare? We have complained at least three to four times but to no avail. Every day children and old people using the grounds have to run the risk of getting injured. We are now fed up of official inaction."

Namdev Ghorka (45), a frequenter to the grounds, said, "Unless there is a festival or an event, nobody trims the grass. Many old people have stopped coming for walks as they are afraid of injuring themselves on the uneven ground."

Ojhas Yadav (12), who comes from Malad East to play here, said, "We come here to play football, but the ground is so rocky. The toilets here stink, they are unusable, and broken. My friend Mohan got jaundice after he drank from the tank."

The Other Side
Congress corporator Baldev Singh Mankoo from ward number 32 in Malad (West), where the ground is located, said, "I know about the ground's terrible state and have tried to do my best to get it repaired. But it comes under the jurisdiction of BMC's garden planning department and I cannot do anything. After the Ramlila programme here next week, I will talk to the BMC officials to look into the matter of repairing it."

DMC, P-North ward, A Khaire said, "I am not aware of the problem with the ground. No complaint letter has come to the BMC so far. If t was brought to out notice, we would prepare a budget and restore it at the earliest."

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