Uncertainty looms large over future of Balbhavan playground

PMC commissioner Mahesh Pathak is proposing that the children’s playground should be leased out to the highest bidder through a tendering process. He will take up the issue at the civic body’s Standing Committee meeting scheduled for today “We have to follow rules regarding the PMC’s grounds and other properties in the city.  If we are charging money as per new rates, why should Balbhavan be an exception? This is a technical issue and I can’t do anything for it,” Pathak said.

In a limbo: Kids play at Garware Balbhavan. File Pic

Three days ago, several parents and their children formed a human chain around the Balbhavan and adjoining Saras Baug area, urging authorities to retain the ground for children. Stating they would find it difficult to make a competitive bid, Shobha Bhagwat, Founder Director, Garware Balbhavan, said, “We can’t file the highest bid, as we are a charity organisation set up for the wellbeing of the children in the society. We can’t run Balbhavan like a profit making business.”

Interestingly, followed by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) stance, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members are now unanimously supporting the Balbhavan playground.  A delegation of the BJP’s elected members under the leadership of Ashok Yenpure met the municipal commissioner and urged him to maintain the ground for children, as there is no other place in the area for the kids to play . “The municipal commissioner has fortunately shown a positive response on the issue. He will study the rules and the rates of the land mentioned in the ready reckoner rules of the PMC,” Yenpure said. “We hope that he [Pathak] keeps his word.”

Following the civic body taking back of the Nana-Nani Park project at Dhole Patil Road, which was being carried out by former Congress corporator Ulhas Dhole Patil, Congress group leader Arvind Shinde has taken a stern stand against Balbhavan playground. He said, “Rules are rules. PMC can’t bend it for Balbhavan only because children are messengers of God. Adopting the competitive tendering process is inevitable and there is no other way out.” Avinash Bhosale, chairman, Sports Committee, PMC, who had earlier supported Balbhavan playground, said, “I can’t go beyond our party leader’s wish.” 

The existing ground price needs to be re-evaluated, if PMC wants to extend the contract after June 6, 2009. PMC can only continue the permission if Balbhavan is ready to pay more rent as per the maximum possible rates.  Bal Thackeray memorial and art gallery can be made on the 3,500 square meter area of the ground, as the PMC storeroom land is sub judice due to a litigation between the civic body and Bombay Cable Company. As per the PMC’s lands and property distribution rules set in 2008, the civic body requires to float tenders instead of giving it to a charitable trust to run the activity of physical and mental development of children. 

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