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Sit-in against youth hostel

- Opposition to construction on land for sports complex

Malda, Aug. 18: Around 100 people today sat on a dharna in front of the Malda district magistrate’s office to protest the construction of a youth hostel on a plot where a sports complex with a stadium has been planned.

The sit-in under the banner of the Sports Complex Bachao Committee was held from 3pm to 5pm. The committee had launched the protest around two months ago with a signature campaign.

A memorandum signed by over 5,000 people was handed over to the district magistrate, Sharad Dwivedi, today by the protesters seeking halt to the construction of the youth hostel as they don’t want any highrise to be built on the vacant land.

Subhasis Sarkar, the convenor of the committee, said the movement was against the destruction of open spaces in town. “We have been carrying out this movement for the past two months. Our demand is that there should be no construction of high-rises on playgrounds. The government is planning a youth hostel on the land where a sports complex has been planned,” said.

MLAs Asif Mehboob and Arjun Haldar of the Congress, Khagen Murmu of the CPM, Tazmul Hossain of the Forward Bloc and Rahim Baxi of the RSP have also put their signatures on the memorandum. Prominent lawyers and sports personalities of Malda have also signed.

According to sources in the district administration, an eight-acre plot of the state sports and youth affairs department at Balurchar here was handed over to the District Sports Association in 2011 for the construction of a sports complex with a stadium that would have a 400-metre track for running.

Sarkar, who was the former secretary of the DSA, said the youth hostel was not in the original plan. “The youth hostel is being built illegally. We will intensify the movement. In the next phase, students will hit the streets in protest.”

District magistrate Dwivedi, however, said the youth hostel was part of the sports complex. “The construction of the youth hostel has started. It is part of the sports complex. The plan of the sports complex is being sent to the sports department for approval.”

The present secretary of the DSA, Subhendu Chowdhury, nominated by the state sports department, denied that there was anything illegal in the construction of the youth hostel.

“The protesters should know that the DSA and the district administration have drawn up a proper plan for the construction. The four-storeyed hostel will not have any effect on the new stadium. The movement is nothing but an attempt to malign the state government,” he said.

Biswanath Ghosh, a former CPM MLA from Kaliachak and a resident of Malda, said the youth hostel would affect the construction of the sports complex.

“The building’s construction will definitely affect the creation of a sports complex in Malda. Before the land was handed over to the DSA in 2011, former sports and youth affairs minister Subhas Chakrabarty had visited the grounds in 2009. He had announced the setting up of a sports complex that would have a track. It would also have facilities for volleyball, kabaddi, table-tennis and badminton. The present government is not at all serious about building a sports complex,” said Ghosh, who was present at today’s agitation.