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President's visit turns local cricket ground at Kalwa to helipad

While there is considerable excitement over President Pranab Mukherjee’s impending visit to Kalwa to unveil a 12-ft-high statue of Shivaji at the Kalwa junction on Saturday, a group of local kids are less than enthusiastic about the VIP visit.

They are upset about the fact that the MIDC grounds, otherwise their favourite spot for a daily game of cricket, has been usurped by the president’s men, who are hard at work preparing it as a helipad for the chopper that will bring the president to the town. Preparations are on in full swing, and as the ground is leveled and other security equipment installed, the boys have been forced to shift their game to an uneven patch nearby.


Trial run of a helicopter landing on the ground in Kalwa yesterday

A strip of land has already been earmarked with chalk for the landing at the MIDC ground. When MiD DAY visited the spot on Thursday afternoon, cops were thronging the grounds, taking rounds to check the ongoing work. A stone’s throw away, the group of boys was engrossed in their game of cricket. A few questions led to the revelation that the new spot they had chosen for their game was an unsuitable one, thanks to its unevenness.


Preparations are on in full swing to transform the MIDC ground in Kalwa to a makeshift helipad for the president’s arrival

Abhishek Mishra, a resident of Airoli, said, “We enjoy playing cricket on the MIDC grounds near Airoli Knowledge City, as it has a plain surface. Besides, it is very large, compared to this stretch. As soon as school gives over, we rush here, although it is at a distance from our home. But for the past few days, the police officials who are manning the spot are not allowing us to enter the ground. We have no option but to find another place where we can play our favourite game.”


Their grounds usurped by cops and officials, the boys have been forced to move their game of cricket to this stretch

Mohit Maurya, another member of the team, revealed that the usurpation of the grounds have denied them their extra hours of play this holiday season. “Since we have a few days of holiday, we get a lot of extra time to play, but have to settle for playing at this ground. We get our gloves, bat and ball, and like to play all day, but cannot do so there. Since the president is coming on Saturday, I am afraid that we may not be allowed to play on this ground either. But we have no option but to listen to the cops and move away with our friends.”

Thane Police Commissioner K P Raghuvanshi said that the heavy police presence would persist throughout the president’s visit. “Whenever such a high profile person visits the city, cops are deployed at the venue a few days in advance to make sure all the security arrangements are in place,” he said. The president is expected to land in his chopper on Saturday at 10.35 am, after which he will make his way to the Kalwa Junction to unveil the 2,200 kg bronze statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at 10.45 am.

Sandeep Malvi, Public Relations officer of Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), said, “The road beautification work was started a week in advance. After the statue is unveiled, the president would be moving ahead to the police parade ground in Thane and is expected to be present in the city till 12 noon on that day.”

Prez on a 2-day visit to state
The trip to Kalwa is part of Pranab Mukherjee’s two-day visit to the state for a series of events. Mukherjee will inaugurate the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress (WZC) at the NSCI Grounds, Worli today. Organised by the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, it is held once every four years in different countries worldwide. Before that, the president will inaugurate CHEMCON 2013, the 66th annual session of Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers.

After the Kalwa visit on Saturday morning, he will travel to Pune to inaugurate the golden jubilee celebrations of the Tribal Research and Training Institute, and later unveil a statue of Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj at the All India Shri Shivaji Memorial Society. On the same evening, he will return to Hyderabad, where he will stay at the Rashtrapati Nilayam in Secunderabad till December 31 on his customary winter sojourn.

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