After children, parents and activists came out in support against the playground at Garware Balbhavan being used for a memorial of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, some well-known persons in the city have come forward to demand that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) renew the land agreement on a permanent basis.
Acclaimed astrophysicists Dr Jayant Naralikar and Dr Arvind Gupta and ecologist Dr Madhav Gadgil are all for the administrators of Garware Balbhavan to renew the contract with the PMC for the next 30 years at least.
MiD DAY had highlighted on February 19 (‘Please don’t take our playground’), the pleas of hundreds of kids in the city, and their parents and eminent citizens to PMC to spare the playground from change.
The civic body’s decision to allot half-acre land adjoining the Garware Balbhavan for a cartoonist art gallery did not go down well in certain quarters of the city. The PMC Standing Committee passed a resolution in January that the proposed art gallery would be named after Thackeray.
MiD DAY followed up with a report that civic body had changed its mind and was to shift the memorial and art gallery plan to the area near PMC’s storeroom and land adjoining Balbhavan ground. The decision was taken in the PMC GB meeting recently.
“Without the playground, Balbhavan can’t function,” Shobha Bhagwat, founder-director, Balbhavan said. The agreement between Balbhavan and PMC was valid from July 1, 1994 to June 20, 2009. This is now posing an obstacle for Balbhavan to continue with activities for children.
Dr Narlikar and his wife Mangala are all for the Balbhavan getting the ground on a permanent basis. “We are with Balbhavan, which is doing a good work for children since the past three decades. There is no reason for the PMC to refuse that it continues. They should ensure that the contract gets renewed for the next three decades,” Naralikar said.
The Naralikars had earlier extended their support to initiatives to keep the hills in and around the city green and sought that encroachments be removed from such areas. Dr Gadgil said, “I am always supportive of a noble cause. Playgrounds are not only the lungs of the city, but Pune needs more such spaces. Balbhavan is for children in the city and before any commercial activity begins to take hold of it, Balbhavan ground should made secure from such forces.”
Need 30 years more
Shobha Bhagwat, Founder Director, Balbhavan added that a letter with signatures of other esteemed supporters, including veteran women activist Vidya Bal, Sadhana Dadhich, cartoonist S D Phadnis, Mangesh Tendulkar, Gandhian activist Shobhana Ranade among others would be sent to PMC Commissioner Mahesh Pathak, seeking that the contract be renewed for the next 30 years. When contacted, Vidya Bal said, “We are sure that the letter would serve the purpose and Balbhavan’s contract would be renewed without losing its existing ground. We are prepared to agitate if the PMC turns a deaf ear to our demand.” Madhuri Sahastrabudde, Bharatiya Janata Party corporator, who runs a children’s activity centre ‘Balranjan’, said, “Why only 30 years? I had proposed at the PMC General Body meeting that Balbhavan should be leased the same area for the next 99 years, and that too with minimal charges.”
Letter sent to CM
Indravadan Zarad, an advocate from Surat, Gujarat, read MiD Day article and approached Shobha Bhagwat to show his support and sent a letter (copy with MiD DAY) to the chief minister. “I have already written a letter to the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is also heading the Urban Development Department. I have urged him in the letter not to put any kind of reservations on the children’s playgrounds in the state. I will file a public interest litigation if my demand is rejected,” Zarad said.