A government agency headed by Firhad Hakim has given the licence to use a ground in the Rabindra Sarobar compound to a club whose president is Firhad Hakim.
The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), whose chairman is Kolkata mayor and urban development minister Hakim, has handed the licence to use the ground to Chetla Agrani, whose president is Hakim.
The ground that Chetla Agrani, whose name is synonymous with Hakim’s, has got is next to the Ashok Malhotra Cricket Academy. If one enters Rabindra Sarobar through gate number 4, also called the Lake Gardens gate, the ground given to Chetla Agrani is on the left.
The club organises one of Kolkata’s big-ticket Durga pujas. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been inaugurating the puja for several years.
Chetla Agrani had applied to the KMDA about five years ago to use a ground in the Sarobar compound, said an official of the KMDA, custodian of Rabindra Sarobar.
But the club did not pay the amount demanded by the KMDA for the next few years. It was last year that they made another appeal saying they wanted to submit the money. “Chetla Agrani is now the licence holder for using the ground for football coaching purposes,” said a KMDA official.
Chetla Agrani was the only applicant, said the official.
A club that has been using the ground for many years allegedly defaulted on payment and its licence was not renewed. The decision to give the licence to Chetla Agrani was passed by the board of the KMDA, of which Hakim is a member, the official said.
Hakim told The Telegraph that Chetla Agrani had paid Rs 67,000 as licence fee and the same amount had to be paid every year. “The club will only use it to conduct a football coaching camp. The licence has to be renewed every year,” he said.
There is no illegality involved in handing the ground to Chetla Agrani, a former KMDA official said after hearing about it from this newspaper. “But one can always question whether there was a conflict of interest involved in this. Hakim is heading the KMDA and the same organisation gives the license to use a ground to a club where he is the boss,” he said.
Chetla Agrani is not the only club that has a licence to use a ground in the Sarobar compound. Before it, an archery academy run by an Olympian was handed the licence to another ground, said a KMDA official.
Multiple cricket and football coaching camps, social clubs, rowing clubs and other academies function from the Sarobar. “These clubs, too, were given licences to use parcels of land inside the Sarobar based on applications made by them. No bidding or competitive process was adopted during handing the licences to these other clubs,” said a former KMDA official.