Since the beginning of October, Nilesh Mahgaonkar of BIT Chawl and his teenaged friends have not been able to play cricket at Lal Maidan in Agripada, because the police in the area have lined up the ground with around 90 stolen cars seized from a ring of thieves.
The ground, where youngsters used to play cricket and football, now resembles a parking lot
The Agripada police station had, at the start of last month, detected a major car theft case and recovered around 90 vehicles, mostly cars and special utility vehicles (SUVs).
The cars the Agripada police recovered from the gang are parked at Lal Maidan, leaving Nilesh Mahgaonkar (extreme right) and his friends no place to play
The accused in the case, one Irfan Mansuri, had opened a firm called Car Kings Tours and Travels, to rent out other people’s vehicles, promising them heavy returns of about Rs 30,000 a month. But, he eventually sold the vehicles in other states.
“He initially paid the car owners monthly, but started defaulting after selling the vehicles. This way, he had sold around 90 cars and SUVs out of the state. When the Agripada police began getting a lot of complaints, they arrested Mansuri and five others, recovering the four-wheelers from different states,” said Nilesh Mahgaonkar.
All work, no play
Nilesh works as a paperboy and resides in BIT Chawl at Farukh Oomerbhoy Marg, Agripada in south Mumbai. After delivering newspapers, Nilesh and his friends Uddhav Zagde, Nilesh Salunkhe, Omkar Horbe, Ankush Golekar, Sahil Mahadik and Mitesh Khamkar, who is a BJP ward president in the area would head out to Lal Maidan in the afternoon, which is just opposite the YMCA swimming pool.
“But since October, we have not been able to play on the ground, as the recovered cars have been parked there. Two constables have been posted there to watch over the vehicles, and we boys cannot play football or cricket. The only thing we can do is sit and chitchat,” said Jayesh Maungekar, a collegian who misses playing at the ground.
There is the YMCA ground in the area, but mostly teens from Madanpura area play there, the boys said. “Madanpura is very crowded and there is just one ground there. If we go to play there and our balls hits somebody, there would be unnecessary fights, and we want to avoid that,” said Nilesh Salunkhe.
On Monday, the teens decided to meet the senior inspector (SI) of Agripada police station, Arvind Patil, and inform him of the situation. “These days, roads are very crowded, houses are very small, and the only place left for us to play is the ground, but if cops start taking that away from us, we will be left with nothing to do but stand on the road,” said Sahil Mahadik.
“We will be submitting an application in the Sewri court on November 24, seeking to return the cars to their original owners. But if the process takes time, we will shift the vehicles to another place,” said SI Patil.
Usually, this process takes months, and the boys hope to get their playground back soon.