Locals up in arms over new community hall

Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) jogging tracks-cum public gardens have been built so that residents can enjoy a peaceful morning walk and senior citizens can get a breath of fresh air at the open spaces. However, the Lokmanya Nagar jogging park located in Navi Peth will be an exception.

Breach of peace: Residents of Lokmanya Nagar fear the construction of a one-storey community hall at the park will cause noise pollution

A ground plus one-storey structure will be constructed anew by razing the existing community hall, which was built by the Maharashtra Housing And Development Authority (MHADA). Now, over fears that the jogging park will lose its tranquillity, as the new building is expected to be used to stage cultural events and other programs, locals are up in arms with the latest development that has been encouraged by local politicians.

According to residents, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Girish Bapat has donated Rs 25 lakh from his MLA fund for the new community hall, and local BJP corporators Manisha Ghate and Dhananjay Jadhav have taken the initiative to construct the new community hall at the jogging park. Also, Nationalist Congress Party MP Vandana Chavan, and former mayor, Ankush Kakade, who is the president of MHADA, have taken a keen interest in this development.

“Known as the first jogging track park in the city, it was constructed by the PMC in 1992. Looked upon as an ideal model for other parks, several parks in the city were replicated based on the Lokmanya Nagar jogging track,” said Yashwant Khaire, former garden superintendent of PMC. Ankush Kakade, MHADA president, said the community hall is being constructed by MHADA though the garden belongs to PMC. “Residents of Lokmanya Nagar can use the community hall to stage Ganpati Utsav, Navratri and other cultural events,” said Kakade.

Health conscious enthusiasts, however, are worried about the intervention due to the new community hall in the midst of the garden. Sandesh Bhandare, noted photographer and writer, condemned the act of constructing a one-storey building in the garden. He said, “Any garden is built for public peace and here it is blatantly being violated. It is strange to have a structure inside a small garden for cultural programs that will use loud speakers. It is wrong to use the hall for commercial purpose and earn revenue. The MLA should spend his money where it is actually required. He should utilise the funds to construct toilets at slums, which come under his constituency.”

Rina Patil, a blind girl staying in the area, complained about the noise during festivals (the existing hall is utilised for various events). She said, “We come to the ground to exercise, but the loud noise is disturbing. The new construction will destroy the peace in the area, as many cultural programs will be held here through out the year. Many senior citizens in the area do not like the idea of a new community hall for cultural programs.”

A M Deshpande, senior citizen residing in the vicinity, said, “We are a secular country and everybody is free to celebrate religious festivals. But, gardens are not made for that and PMC should stop this activity. Soon this garden will become a cultural program venue. Actually, such activities can be organised anywhere in the city. Please leave the gardens.”

Sunil Kesri, garden superintendent, PMC, who was not aware of the development, said, “We shall check if a big construction is proposed there. If MHADA is doing this, we shall communicate with MHADA authorities to know their intentions. It is true that there are certain norms made for public gardens, and I will check the facts.”  

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