Land revenue minister Mathura Prasad Mahto (extreme right) enjoys a ride after the inauguration of the boating centre in Dhanbad on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Entertainment-starved coal town got its favourite water getaway after a one-year gap. Yes, pedal boats at Dhanbad’s Bekar Bandh pond are back in action and determined to make a bigger splash.
Land revenue minister Mathura Prasad Mahto inaugurated the boating centre at the pond on Wednesday. The facility’s civic owner Dhanbad district board, after a meeting on September 3, handed over a five-year-old lease to Kumar Chaman Singh, who incidentally had been involved with the pond since it was dug in 1992.
Land revenue minister Mahto said the pond was otherwise a “nondescript place” but the boating centre made it the city’s hot spot. “Both the district board and Dhanbad Municipal Corporation should work together to maintain the pond. It can be developed as a major source of entertainment for coal belt residents,” said the minister in the presence of Dhanbad MP P.N. Singh, district board chairperson Maya Devi, her deputy Santosh Mahto, deputy development commissioner Ratan Kumar Gupta, Federation of Dhanbad Zilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rajiv Sharma.
Dhanbad DC Prashant Kumar said streetlights would be installed near the pond and road leading to it. “A city with well maintained public places is a better urban habitat,” he said.
Established way back in 1992, Bekar Bandh led a chequered existence, but its re-launch is grand. The centre has a fleet of six new pedal boats — two and four seaters — a waiting hall, refreshment centre and proper toilets for visitors.
“The centre will be open from 9am to 8pm,” Singh said about the third launch of the service in the last two decades between 1992 and 2012.
“We have kept the charge nominal at Rs 20 per person for a 25-minute boat ride. Visitors will pedal the boat on their own. We are calling our new six boats Apsara, Ganga, Nandini, Nargis, Anarkali and Khushi. We’ve procured them from Calcutta at a cost of Rs 70,000 each. We may start a motorboat service soon,” Singh added.
Though many young couples may think that the sudden toppling of a boat is very exciting, romantic perhaps, authorities are taking no chances.
“We have made safety arrangements. Visitors need to wear life jackets and carry with them the buoy available at the centre. And, we will clean the pond regularly. Dredging and sprinkling of DDT and bleaching powder will be a regular affair,” Singh said.
He seems to have learnt from the previous lessons. Inaugurated 20 years ago by then deputy development commissioner (DDC) K.P. Ramaiyah, the pond was closed in 1995 due to inflow of dirty water from drains, including Dhanbad divisional jail’s sewage. Even then, Singh owned the lease.
Then, everyone forgot about it for 11 years. In 2006, the district board started a desilting and cleanliness drive. Dhanbad MP Chandrasekhar Dubey inaugurated the boating centre and Singh got the lease till 2011.
Gung-ho about the latest launch, Singh added: “Our boating facility also comes with add-ons. You get samosas, chips, coffee, tea and cold drinks at the refreshment centre. There’s a waiting hall for families. In a city with so few leisure options, it’s a blessing.”