Barka Maidan — Ranchi’s green lung and game ground — is in big trouble.
Mauled, maimed, bored and battered umpteen times by various fair and function organisers — who tend to play foul when it comes to undoing the damage — the once-cherished walker’s paradise and venue for many a local tournament is gasping for life.
And this despite Governor Syed Ahmed categorically asking the state urban development department, the district administration and the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) not to rent out playgrounds for fairs, exhibitions, cultural shows, political functions and any other non-sporting activities.
The latest body blow to Barka Maidan has been dealt by a home décor exhibition. Though the event, which was inaugurated by the chief minister on May 3, concluded last Monday, the three-acre ground still bears telltale signs of an unkind assault. Stubborn scaffoldings and asbestos perimeter are hindering games, drilled holes to erect them are yet to be plugged and last vestiges of the event are littering vast swathes.
According to local residents, the Maidan had remained occupied for some event or the other since March.
“If you try to reason with the civic authorities, they will say that fairs and exhibitions are time-bound and the ground is free for sports otherwise. But, this is not true. For the past three months, children have barely been able to play, senior citizens feel cornered and no one has heard of a local tournament. The ground remains blocked for at least five days before and after the scheduled event,” said Munna Gari, who lives in the vicinity and misses his morning walks at his favourite Barka Maidan.
Deepak Sharma, a resident who practises yoga on the ground, was equally perturbed. According to him, civic guardians were selling their green lung to get rich. “Barka Maidan has become a hen with golden eggs for the board (read RMC), which charges Rs 12,000 a day as rent for fairs and functions, but does not spend a single penny for its development. All these function paraphernalia clutter the Maidan round the year and make us feel claustrophobic. Yoga is all about controlled breathing. My sessions have gone haywire in this mess,” Sharma said.
RMC councillor Shibu Tigga, who is also a local resident, admitted the problem and said he had made several vain attempts to save the ground. “The (RMC) board makes good money through these fairs without any capital investment. I had tried to draw the attention of officials towards the growing problem, but failed. Maybe, I will try once again. The board should understand that fairs and exhibitions are destroying the ground,” he echoed Sharma.
Sources in the RMC said the system of renting the ground started in 2007 when Avinash Kumar — who was in the eye of a controversy for giving acres of land to private builders — was the managing director. “When he launched the system, the rent was Rs 1,200 a day. But, the board found the business beneficial. It was earning more than Rs 2 lakh every year without investment. In 2011, charges were increased by 10 times,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
Managing director of the RMC board Vinay Kumar Choubey insisted there was nothing wrong in renting out Barka Maidan when “it helps generate revenue”. On how the civic body planned to protect the green lung, he said: “Clear instructions are given to organisers to fill up holes (bored to erect tents) and clean the ground before they leave.”
But is anyone listening?
Choubey, meanwhile, went on to say that they were “serious about sports” and never charged for tournaments. He also claimed that the ground was not given for non-sporting purposes for more than three days. The exhibition had, however, been held for five days. “We rent out the Maidan for fairs only when we are sure that sports events are not scheduled,” he stressed.