Even after 10 years of watching their local playground being monopolised by a private hard-ball cricket camp, members of the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) of Kormangala Third Block are not willing to give up. Now they have come together to keep their efforts in redeeming the two-and-a-half-acre park on track.

Designated as a civic amenity site in 2001 by a High Court ruling, the playground has been turned into a private coaching camp under the name of Koramangala Cricket Academy by Shiva and his partner Ravi, both residents of the area. “What is shocking is that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has sanctioned something like this,” said an outraged RWA member on Wednesday.

The RWA members alleged that Rs. 25 lakh had been sanctioned towards this activity, in a document shown to them by the BBMP.

K. Jairaj, former Commissioner, BBMP, wrote to the then Joint Commissioner (East) BBMP to involve local residents in the development of the park-***- playground.

“The owners of this cricket coaching centre, who have usurped the playground by laying out 12 pitches during peak coaching time, charge a hefty fee from enrolled children — anywhere between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 7,000,” said the residents, who are being backed by MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar and MLA Ramalinga Reddy.

Moreover, the residents allege that the owners rent out the ground to corporates for Rs. 250 per pitch per hour on weekends.

“The owners of this camp are abusive and hostile and treat this park as their own when it is really public property,” they complained.

“How can senior citizens walk around with hard-ball cricket being played here? This is such a large park and can accommodate children playing all sports – why should a private party take over? All constructive activity such as the building of a walking pathway has been stopped.”

Mr. Reddy, who met the residents a few days ago, said he would speak with officials of the BBMP in the first week of April to sort out the issue.

He said: “Crores of rupees have been sanctioned for parks and playgrounds this year, and I am going to propose that Rs. 50 lakh be allotted to this park.

“If there is unauthorised activity here, we must not allow it. The Comprehensive Development Plan says it is a park *** playground.”

Mr. Ravi denied the charge of being associated with camp but he said he would rather see children play cricket rather than be “terrorists or Naxalites”.

“Why can’t they use any other park in Koramangala?” he asked. However, the residents pointed out that Third Block had just one playground-***-park. When contacted, BBMP’s top officials declined to comment.

Source:The Hindu, 13th March, 2009