RMC DITHERS OVER KILLER STADIUM
The flooded entrance of the Jharkhand State Wrestling Association office at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Aug. 9: An inquiry committee, formed by the state sports department this morning to look into the electrocution of a national-level wrestler yesterday, has found Jaipal Singh Stadium unfit even for a chidiya (bird) to stay and yet there seems to be no proactive endeavour to seal the condemned building that continues to be home for a dozen sportsmen.
The department and the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) - the custodian of the stadium where Jharkhand State Wrestling Association also has its office - played passing the buck, underscoring how even an untimely death is unable to evoke the collective conscience of Jharkhand.
Players, on the other hand, have started moving out of the unsafe shelter.
Vishal Kumar (22), a resident of Upper Bazaar in the state capital, had received a fatal jolt in the flooded washroom of the wrestling outfit office where a live wire was hanging loose. He died on his way to hospital.
The probe team - comprising deputy director of sports Sandeep Doraiburu, technical cell official Ved Mohan and Ranchi executive magistrate-cum-district sports officer Manohar Prasad - inspected the dilapidated stadium, including the accident spot and rooms where players live.
The team also visited Vishal's Upper Bazar residence nearby. Tomorrow, the team will speak to police and is expected to submit its report by this week.
District sports officer Prasad, speaking to The Telegraph briefly over phone, shared their unanimous observation. " Yahan toh chidiya bhi rehne layak nahi hai. Pata nahi log kaise rehte hai aur office bhi chal raha hai (The place is not fit even for a bird. Who knows how people are living here and offices are functioning)," he said.
Prasad said they might submit the report as early as tomorrow night or latest by Friday morning. "One thing is clear: this building (the stadium) is totally unsafe and shouldn't be put to use (pending renovation)," he added.
State sports director Ranendra Kumar said minister Amar Kumar Bauri and department secretary Rahul Sharma would take a call on the report. Asked if they would seal the place, Kumar said that would be for RMC to decide.
Municipal commissioner Shantanu Agrahari admitted that the stadium bore the "condemned" tag, but blamed the wrestling association for using it.
"They (the outfit) never complained to us about the run-down condition (of the building) or problems faced by them. They never officially mentioned waterlogging on the premises. They are responsible for the incident (death of Vishal). The RMC can't pay daily visits," Agrahari said, stressing that the association should have left the place long ago.
Asked why the RMC wasn't sealing the stadium on its own, the civic official said they planned to pull down the building and raise a new structure in its place. "Also, we will form a separate three-member team to probe the mishap and take a call accordingly," he added.
Wrestling association secretary Bholanath Singh punched holes in the RMC claims. "Waterlogging has become an acute problem this year because the RMC has dug up here and there in the name of renovation. We don't have a place to shift office. The government should consider giving us one," he said.
According to Singh, the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA) had allotted them the office in the late 90s. "We have the old letter. After Jharkhand was formed, the RMC took over the property, but it never asked us to vacate the place," he added.
While the authorities and the association trade charges, poor players are left scouting for safer places to live in.
Ormanjhi athlete Prem Kumar and wushu player Devlam were packing their bags this morning when this correspondent visited the first floor of the stadium.
"We have made up our mind to move out. We will seek shelter at some friend's place. Two wrestlers shifted to the dormitory at Birsa Munda Football Stadium in Morabadi this morning," said Prem, a state-level gold winner twice.
Devlam said they were staying at the stadium so long to save money. "It is not practical to come from Ormanjhi for practice every day. But, we won't put our lives at risk anymore," he said, adding that besides 10 sportsmen, mostly wrestlers, half a dozen police jawans had also made the stadium their home.
Wrestling association secretary Singh said the government should provide hostels to players who can't afford independent accommodation in Ranchi.
Sports director Kumar insisted that they were extending all possible co-operation to underprivileged talents. "There are players living at the mega sports complex in Hotwar and Birsa football stadium. The wrestling association never demanded lodging for its players," he said.