|A security personnel keeps vigil at JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi on Thursday and (above) Jharkhand Chhatra Sangh members stage a protest. (Prashant Mitra)
Jharkhand cricket lovers, the biggest threat to Team Dhoni on or before the January 19 ODI is not Alastair Cook and his boys.
It is the unfriendly neighbourhood protester.
Jharkhand Chhatra Sangh, an apolitical students’ union, which protests against real or imagined injustice meted out by Ranchi University or Jharkhand Academic Council and takes up “tribal causes”, has found for itself a superb photo-op by being the first outfit to make the upcoming ODI a soft target.
On Thursday, around 50 youths under the Sangh’s banner gathered before the showpiece International Stadium Complex in Dhurwa, chanting their two-point demand charter that they want Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) to fulfill “within a week”.
One, youths from families of the HEC displaced must get jobs inside the stadium.
Two, youths and children of families of the HEC displaced must watch the January 19 ODI on 50 per cent discount tickets. Which means, the cheapest ticket that costs Rs 1,200, should be given at Rs 600 to each of the Sangh’s chosen ones.
The demand for jobs and ticket discounts continued from 1pm to 2pm, with foot soldiers waving computer printouts — placards were too much of an effort — to reiterate their message.
The stadium did not come up in a day. The ticket prices were not announced on Thursday. So why the hullabaloo?
There are no easy answers. But student unions can teach full-fledged politicians a thing or two about the fine art of arm-twisting and opportunism. In an age of publicity-hungry protests, linking the worthy cause of displaced rehab with a hi-profile cricket match is a stroke of genius. Jharkhand Chhatra Sangh must get all the (dubious) applause for being the first mover.
In fact, other student unions and outfits who make a living out of trouble-mongering must be beating their heads in despair — why didn’t they think of it first?
Jharkhand Chhatra Sangh president S. Ali made sure he got his lines pitch-perfect.
“It’s a picture in contrast. On one hand, such a massive stadium has come up with the who’s who of cricket and dignitaries visiting here. But the displaced here living in slums are ignored. From today, we have launched a fight for them. We want local youths to be recruited for various stadium jobs such as managers, security guards, gardeners and others,” Ali bellowed.
He alleged that contractors and stadium members had a “racket” that deprived the locals of jobs. “We are giving JSCA a week to fulfill our demands. Else, we will launch a massive stir,” he added.
JSCA deputed workers on contractual stadium jobs from registered agencies to maintain accountability. Jharkhand Chhatra Sangh or anyone of its ilk did not approach any registered job agency to get displaced youths registered.
On the issue of the discounted tickets, when The Telegraph asked if Rs 600 was too high a sum for a displaced youth or child to spend on a cricket match, Ali said many “can afford it”.
“All we are asking is the right to watch the first ODI happening here,” he added.
JSCA took the documents submitted by the union but no representative came out with any comment.
“All we know is that the state is set to host a first historic ODI. We all are working professionally to ensure no one visiting the stadium faces any hassles,” said Sanjay Singh, a senior functionary of the organising committee.
So, is the JSCA a sitting duck for the protest googly? The next few days will tell.
Can the capital host the ODI without shameful glitches?