MSSA face up to ground reality

In A major setback to the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA), the Maharashtra government has cancelled the 30-year lease of their premises that include a playground and office facility at Azad Maidan.

Groundsmen at work
All work, no play? Groundsmen at work at the MSSA’s Azad Maidan premises

In fact, the 120-year-old schools body, started by Sir Dorabji Jamshedji Tata that has conducted inter-school matches in various disciplines for decades, has been asked to vacate the premises with immediate effect.

The 30-year lease was granted to MSSA by the late chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2008. As per government rules, the schools body needed to sign an agreement with the state authorities, which they failed to do.

Uncertainty looms
“We received an order signed by the district’s former Deputy Director (sports), NB Mote, (dated 27th July 2012) saying that the 30-year lease granted to us in 2008 has been cancelled. Now we can be asked to vacate the place any time. We are trying our best to save this ground so that children do not suffer,” said MSSA President Fr Jude Rodrigues.

Meanwhile, Fr Rodrigues and his team are trying to meet chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to rescind the order. “Mote asked us to sign the agreement that had terms and conditions which differed from what the then Chief Minister Deshmukh had agreed to. Hence we didn’t sign the agreement. Now, we have made a fresh agreement and sent it to the Chief Minister’s office. The CM’s office has forwarded the agreement to the sports department but without any remarks on it,” added Rodrigues, who was apprehensive about what lay in store for MSSA in the future.

“We have no clue what’s in store for us. We will keep trying to do the best possible to save this ground. If nothing works, we plan to hold a protest rally on November 14 (Children’s Day),” he said.

‘MSSA to blame’
Meanwhile, Mote blamed MSSA for the mess. “The MSSA’s case is currently with the competent authority in Mumbai city. The lease that was supposed to be signed by MSSA officials alongwith the government has not been done, and that’s the reason the¬†government asked them to vacate the ground. If they still make an appeal explaining the reason why they delayed in signing the agreement, I am sure the government will consider it and extend the lease as promised,” Mote told MiD DAY from Pune.

The current Deputy Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Mumbai division, Anand Venkeshwar remained unavailable for comment.

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