| The patch of green in Salt Lake’s AA block, that was used as a playground by local children, has been dug up to construct a teachers’ training college. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
With only a few square feet of land set aside as a “park” by Bidhannagar Municipality, it was the only playground for the children of Salt Lake’s AA block, Duttabad and other neighbourhoods close by.
However, in July this year, residents of the area got the shock of their lives when they saw that massive construction work had begun at AA 287. The All Bengal Teachers Training College was coming up there.
But the municipal authorities see nothing wrong in robbing children of their playground. “What crime are we committing'” exclaimed Dilip Gupta, municipality chairman. “In setting up the institute, we are going by the masterplan and we cannot change it overnight. We have to follow the rules on executing all development projects in Salt Lake.”
Residents are strongly opposed to the plan but the authorities insist that the plot was earmarked for an educational institution and nothing can be done about it. “We don’t deserve this. The masterplan is not the last word and why can’t it be altered according to changing needs'” asked Partha Chatterjee, secretary of the AA Block Committee.
After their protests were dismissed by the civic body, residents are contemplating taking the legal route to get back the playground for their children. “After our protests were brushed aside by the municipal officials, we planned to move court. However, funds became a problem and so we had to temporarily put off our plans,” Chatterjee said.
But they have not given up hope. “Once the new block committee is formed just after the Pujas, we shall again take up the issue and, perhaps, move court if the authorities do not change their decision,” he added.
“There is no playground in our area. The so-called park is a tiny plot that is ill-maintained and has no amenities,” said K.S. Sengupta, a resident of AA block. “Both my sons used to play in the plot. Now, the children have to play on the streets,” he said.
Almost the entire playground has been dug up and construction is on in full swing. Some children still play in the few square metres left untouched. Residents said they expressed their disapproval at the annual general meeting of ward 1 on August 31. But there was no positive response from officials.