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Blot on beauty spot

Gandhi Maidan has lost its splendour in less than two years after the state government spent Rs 8.5 crore for its beautification.

Though the embellishment was completed by November 2012, the maidan bore the first injury during BJP’s Hunkar Rally in October 2013. Serial blasts left the city landmark battered and bruised.

Soon after the blasts, security agencies dug up parts of the maidan to sanitise it.

If that was not enough, around six acres of the 62-acre ground has now been given to a company, which is involved in the construction of the International Convention Centre near Magadh Mahila College. The company has set up tenements for its ongoing work related to the convention centre.

The six-acre ground area is also being used for assembling the structure of the convention centre, temporary toilets have also been erected and visitors and morning walkers have been restricted to visit the eastern part of the maidan.

Not only this, even the barricading and the makeshift stage, which were erected for the concluding day function of Tarang on February 14 has not been removed. Hundreds of bamboos were lying on the ground, creating problem for morning walkers and youths, who visit the ground for games.

The grass pitching, which was carried out at the time of beautification, could no longer be seen at the Maidan. Residents, for whom the Maidan is one of the favourite destinations, rued the bad condition of the city’s “beauty spot”.

Exhibition Road resident Premchand Shrivastava (62), who is a regular at the maidan for mostly morning walk, said: “The condition of Gandhi Maidan is horrible. The ground is dirty because too many objects are lying here and there. The historic ground is losing its charm every day. For morning walkers, the maidan is no longer an enjoyable site.”

Another resident of Exhibition Road, Rajendra Kumar (45), believes this is torturous for citizens who are heavily dependent on the maidan during their leisure. “The government has found an idea to torture the morning walkers by allotting the ground to a construction company. The company has set up quarters for its workers. Even concrete constructions are going on at the Gandhi Maidan. The district administration has miserably failed to keep the ground clean,” he said.

The district administration took almost two years to complete the beautification work of the maidan after missing four deadlines. It had also deprived the residents the access to the ground for almost a month from July 15, 2012, because of the beautification drive.

After the Hunkar Rally blasts, the government had announced to form a separate committee for regular maintenance of the maidan. The committee has been formed and is being headed by Patna divisional commissioner. However, the committee is yet to come out with guidelines on how to maintain the Maidan.

The secretary of Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Razi Ahmad, said: “It is highly objectionable that the government has allotted certain portion of the ground to a construction company. It is a historic ground that witnessed rallies of Jayaprakash, Subhash Chandra Bose and Ram Manohar Lohia. Even Mahatma Gandhi had conducted a mass prayer at the ground. Crores have already been spent on the beautification of the ground. Now, if it is not maintained, the government will have to spend huge money again. The government should re-think on its decision and should ask the construction firm to shift somewhere else.”

During the beautification drive, a grass bed was laid, a proper drainage system was constructed, a pathway for morning walkers was also made, the soil was levelled, sprinklers were installed, new benches were made and the old ones were repaired, a borewell was installed and grills were fixed on the outer boundary wall.

When enquired about the allotment of a part of the Gandhi Maidan to a construction company, district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar said: “The ground has been allotted to the construction company on the request of the building construction department.”

He added: “We have allotted them the ground for a year and the pre-fabrication work is going on. Once their work is complete, everything will be dismantled and removed. The maidan would be restored to its actual shape. I don’t think the morning walkers are facing any problem. There is enough space for them to walk.”