Celebrations replete with songs, dance and colourful balloons marked the news that Garware Balbhavan playground is out of harm’s way. Children from all parts of the city who visit the park every day were jubilant. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) General Body meeting, on Wednesday, approved the revised proposal of allocating the civic body’s Hirabaug tar store area for the Bal Thackeray memorial and art gallery.
MiD DAY had highlighted on February 19 (‘Please don’t take our playground’) the pleas of hundreds of kids in the city, their parents and eminent citizens towards PMC for sparing the playground. Sources say, Ashok Harnawal, Shiv Sena group leader in the civic body, who was keen on the memorial coming up on the Balbhavan ground, had himself given the supplementary suggestion of using the nearby Hirabaug land for the purpose. “I will now erect the Thackeray memorial and art gallery at the tar store land owned by the PMC,” he declared in the meeting.
MiD DAY had also reported yesterday about Balbhavan founder-director Shobha Bhagwat alleging that Harnawal had threatened her to vacate the land at the earliest. But she said on Wednesday the Shiv Sena leader came to her office, with his colleague Prashant Badhe, and politely told her that she had misunderstood his statement and it would have been better if she had spoken with him before contacting MiD DAY.
Bhagwat was delighted too. Thanking this newspaper, she said, “Though the danger of losing the ground is over, we have to be very cautious so that this plot is not sacrificed at the altar of politics. We ideally want PMC to lease us the 2-acre land for the next 99 years. It was ethically wrong of the civic body to try to commercially exploit this land meant for a children’s park.”
Psychologist Dr Shyamala Vanarase, who prepared the curriculum for teachers at Balbhavan, said, “It is sad that several times in the past few years threat has loomed large over this land rightfully belonging to the children of the city. We need to look for a permanent solution to stamp out this menace
forever.” Vasant More, leader of opposition, PMC, had also backed Balbhavan. “Children’s playgrounds should be kept away from any kind of commercial developments,” he said.