The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued a circular on April 19 that henceforth, it will not allow any political rally, political functions or commercial activities on playgrounds and recreational grounds in the city. Political parties may go to court but one can only hope that the BMC stands firm.
Even though there are rules specifying use of maidans for sports and recreational purposes, these open grounds are routinely used by political parties for rallies, protests, large gatherings.
Shivaji Park, the nursery of Indian cricket, is a case in point. Constant rallies and large gatherings have spelt doom for this maidan and sportspersons are being robbed of opportunities to train during such events. Cricket coaches are miffed at the state of the ground and how it affects cricket nets after such political rallies are held. Residents have regularly been irked by the hullabaloo and noise created during such rallies.
As it is, Mumbaikars are hard pressed to find open spaces for rest, relaxation and sport. Mumbai’s sports culture has lost its prime position and one of the factors responsible for the decline is the space crunch. Young sportsmen do not have grounds to train and if they do, have to commute long, energy-sapping distances to do so. Mumbai’s only velodrome (cycling arena) once at Haji Ali has already disappeared and so have numerous training grounds.
The benefits of open grounds are intangible — young and old, sporting or non-sporting. To see them being used for all kinds of activity other than what they are meant for, calls for intervention. One welcomes this circular, never mind the protestations of political parties. Stay firm, BMC.