The Maharashtra State government’s decision to cancel the lease of the land allotted to the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA), has stunned the association officials.
In a letter issued on October 17, 2012, signed by school education and sports department under-secretary Satish Jondhale, the state has stressed that the land is being taken back from MHA since the body has a host of complaints registered against them by members of the public that include prominent Mumbai-based former India hockey players, Shiv Chhatrapati awardees, Arjuna awardees etc., alleging “violations of the lease agreement and rules and regulations, failure to encourage hockey, utilisation of the plot for wedding receptions and other commercial functions, renovation of the stadium and administration office without the government’s consent.”
In July this year, a group of former India hockey players including Dhanraj Pillay, Joaquim Carvalho Mervyn Fernandis, Onkar Singh, Helen Mary, Iqbaljit Singh Grewal, Rahul Singh, Edgar Mascarenhas, Daryl D’souza, Gavin Ferreira, Gurbux Singh etc. had approached then deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar claiming the inappropriate functioning of the MHA by a group of people, who have nothing to do with hockey. The allegations in the recent directive are a consequence of this meeting.
MHA authorities however, refuted all these charges. “I don’t understand why this issue has suddenly cropped up. It is extremely shocking and disappointing,” an upset MHA Hon Secretary Ram Singh Rathor told MiD DAY yesterday.
“I refute all the allegations made against us. We cannot afford to take this issue lying down and will be forced to go all out to justify our cause. We plan to meet Minister of State for Sports and Youth Welfare, Padmakar Valvi and hope he understands our plea,” added Rathor.
MHA president Manga Singh Bakshi said he could not understand the allegation of ‘failure to encourage hockey.’ “If you come to our ground right now, you will see that the Div I-IV matches of the Mumbai Hockey league are on. Besides this, we also make the ground available to the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) and the District Sports Office (DSO) for their matches, so where is the question of not encouraging the game? We have no option but to take the legal route,” he said.
The letter further claims, “the plot was given to MHA on 31 May, 1968, and its lease expired on December 31, 2003. MHA thereafter made several representations to renew the lease, but the government found it difficult owing to several complaints made against the body during that period.
“In 2005, the government decided to take back the plot from MHA, but MHA did not give them possession. The government then approached a competent authority in Mumbai city for eviction and though the authority gave a decision in the government’s favour, MHA approached the city civil court for relief.
On being denied this relief, MHA then approached the state government with a plea to renew the lease for the plot and a meeting was held with the chief minister on April 23, 2008, following which MHA submitted a letter on July 31, 2008, saying that they will (i) abide by all the regulations and comply in its entirety subject to the renewal of our land premises for a further period on the existing rental basis in accordance with government policy, (ii) observe and implement directives issued by the Govt of Maharashtra from time to time, (iii) undertake to pay any penalty for any lapses (though unintentional) in observance of the conditions of the lease agreement, (iv) withdraw the court cases subject to renewal by Govt of Maharashtra.
“The government renewed the lease for a period of 15 years, beginning January 1, 2004. However, thereafter the MHA made a representation to the government for amending the rules and regulations imposed by and to increase the 15-year lease to 32 years.”
Rathor admitted to their request for a change in the lease term. “Yes we have requested the government to increase the lease period but again that is in the interest of promoting the game. Our intentions are very clear and clean,” he said.
Venue for revenue
Countering the letter’s claims of hosting marriages at the venue, Bakshi said: “Ever since the 1982 World Cup that was held in Mumbai, the government has not given any grant to the association. In such a situation, marriages are our only source of revenue. We have successfully raised Rs 12 lakh for the Mumbai hockey league. The government must take note of our effort and ensure the game does not suffer in the city.”
MHA President says
Marriages are our only source of revenue. We have successfully raised Rs 12 lakh for the Mumbai hockey league. The govt must take note of our effort and ensure the game does not suffer in the city
— MS Bakshi