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NKDA to run coaching camps in New Town playgrounds

Facilities to be run as non-profit ventures; New Town residents can team up to play free of cost all day but not with outsiders

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 24.06.22, 07:15 AM
With the fenced ground under lock and key, the cricket coaching camp in CB Block being held on a rough patch just behind the fencing on Sunday.

With the fenced ground under lock and key, the cricket coaching camp in CB Block being held on a rough patch just behind the fencing on Sunday.

Sudeshna Banerjee

The recent notice stopping commercial activities in the 10 parks of New Town that the NKDA is maintaining as playgrounds has put under a cloud the sports coaching camps that are being held in some of them.

But the word from the NKDA office is that the authorities are getting ready to start running the facilities themselves.

The Newtown Business Club, which is a unit of NKDA, has been entrusted with the responsibility. “They already run cycle coaching classes at the NKDA football stadium and are also involved in training for swimming and tennis at the club and roller skating at the Clock Tower ground. If needed, they can facilitate football coaching also at the neighbourhood level,” said NKDA chairman Debashis Sen.

The camps would be run on a no-profit, no-loss basis. “Whatever be the trainer’s remuneration will be divided equally among the number of the students and collected as fees. The trainer will be nominated by us. No money will change hands privately as it is happening now in some grounds. An NKDA official will issue official receipts against payments made by guardians of the players,” Sen stated, citing the way a yoga centre used to be run till recently at Upashana Sthal.

Sen said the NKDA had been approached by some coaches working at the camps, worried about being rendered redundant if the camps shut down. “They are welcome to apply to us. After all, we too will need coaches to run these facilities,” he said.

Rules and regulations will soon be framed. “If we can maintain the parks and pay the security guard, why will we not be able to organise sports coaching?” he asks.

Sign up online

The process of registering individual residents is underway. In a second notice which has been put up at the grounds, a form has been floated which needs to be filled up online at http://shorturl.at/beoA2. The form mandatorily requires the applicant’s Aadhaar card number, name of a parent or a guardian, a photo identity proof, address and a confirmation of whether the person is the owner or a tenant. The form also needs an indication of which of the 10 listed grounds the applicant wants to play in, which sport, which part of the day he or she wants to play in and whether he or she wants to avail of paid training.

Registration would allow residents to book the ground and play free of cost at any time of the day. “The guard will be trained to check the identity of the players. We will come up with a process. Perhaps a QR code will be generated when one books a time slot online to play which can be scanned at the entry,” Sen said.

But there is a caveat. No player from outside the NKDA area will be allowed to play with local residents who would get the time slot to play free. “NKDA is maintaining the parks out of property taxes collected from residents. Why will we let anyone who is not paying for its upkeep play free of cost at the ground?” the NKDA chairman argued.

All outsiders wishing to play would have to book the ground for Rs 500 for a maximum of three hours.

Many of the block committee officials are upset at the turn of events. “Imagine having to submit Aadhaar card details or sign a register for children of the block to play in their own locality ground. This is infringing on our freedom. Also if outsiders are allowed to book the ground against payment and play, this will hamper our peace,” says Alok Das, secretary of the New Town CE Block Cultural Association. The block is planning a mass signature campaign and to submit a deputation to the NKDA.

A file picture of children enrolled at the New Town CE Block football coaching camp. The block association has stopped both its football and cricket coaching camps after the NKDA notice was put up at the park.

A file picture of children enrolled at the New Town CE Block football coaching camp. The block association has stopped both its football and cricket coaching camps after the NKDA notice was put up at the park.

Sudeshna Banerjee

The reason why

According to sources, there are two reasons why the NKDA has decided to step in and assert its ownership of the grounds. Some of the block committees in which the playgrounds are located were treating the facility as exclusive to their residents. There have been cases of friction when people from other blocks and housing complexes were coming to play in a ground situated in another block and not being allowed in.

At a meeting convened on the issue at the NKDA office on June 3, AE Block acting secretary Debmalya Shome had raised the problem of some blocks like AB, AC and AE not having playgrounds being refused access by those which had. “Some of our youngsters had gone to play at the BA Block ground. They were told that people over 16 years were not allowed to play and turned away. Such rules cannot be framed by any block on their own,” he complained at a meeting with the NKDA.

In CE Block, the police had to be called when NBCC Vibgyor Towers residents wanted to play in the local ground which the local association said was for block residents, arguing that their housing complex was in CE Block as well.

The second development that has raised the NKDA’s heckles is reports of coaching camps in several grounds being run as profitable ventures. “Had the coaching been done as a charity activity for uplift of sports, we would not have objected to the camps,” said an official.

The associations which are running the coaching camps offer their side of the argument. “It is true that we discourage older people to play,” said BA Block immediate past secretary Prabir Mazumdar.

Cricket coaching under way in nets put up outside the fenced-off playground in BA Block

Cricket coaching under way in nets put up outside the fenced-off playground in BA Block

“How can our children match up to the sturdy youths from Jatragachhi or Gauranganagar? Last Saturday, block women stopped such a group, citing the NKDA notice put up on the ground’s fencing. Even then, we are not against people from other blocks using the ground. But they should come and meet us first so our coaching camp and their game times do not clash,” Mazumdar added. Ever since the first notice was put up, the association has discontinued its football coaching. “We had started the camp after the lockdown to bring kids out of the four walls. Football was our most popular sport with close to 70 students enrolled. But since that involved the entire ground, we stopped it once the first NKDA notice banning commercial activity was put up at the park,” he added. Cricket coaching continues outside the fenced area in two nets with about 40 students. While the monthly fee for football coaching is Rs 500, for cricket it is Rs 800 as the kit is more expensive and, as the organisers point out, they had developed the infrastructure like practice pitches and nets. Uniforms require a one-time initial expense of Rs 300.

Cricket coaching under way in nets put up outside the fenced-off playground in CB Block

Cricket coaching under way in nets put up outside the fenced-off playground in CB Block

The BA Block football coaching camp had made such a name that several professional footballers from Africa who were looking for an opening in the Maidan clubs came here on the basis of invitation letters as coaches from the association. There were footballers from Kerala too. Till it shut down, the camp had employed five coaches, including one from abroad.The organisers had also started constructing a change room for the players with a cement base and a steel superstructure but had to abandon the work after objections were raised about building a permanent structure on NKDA land. So they have now erected a tarpaulin sheet canopy for the guardians and players to sit under. “Since our chess class is held at the same time in our committee room, it becomes difficult to accommodate the outdoor sport players and their parents if it is hot or raining,” said Snehasish Das, a governing body member. Across the road from the 1CA-1CD Welfare Association office, is the playground in CB Block, now under lock and key. The camp they run operates inside the park till 8.30am when entry is free and then continues in the space rolled out just behind the fencing. Tapas Majumdar, caretaker of a building close by who still plays office cricket, is in charge. Playing on plain ground means the ball often lands in bushes running wild at the sides. “We have tried to cover as much of the bushes as we could with nets so the kids do not have to search for balls inside the bushes, risking snake or insect bites,” said a resident who had enrolled both his son and daughter at the camp. The association, which also runs a taekwondo camp twice a week, has sought a meeting with the NKDA. Parents are upset that the little physical activity that their wards were getting has come to a stop in some blocks or will soon stop elsewhere. A mother of twins, who did not want to be named, brings her sons thrice a week for coaching at the BA Block camp. “The toto ride costs me Rs 70 either way. But at least they are getting good coaching. We do have a ground in DC Block but it is small and without any coaching facility,” she said, stressing that just providing a ground without any training structure was not enough for small children.According to NKDA sources, work on resumption of the camps under the NKDA’s supervision will begin next week. The last date for filling up the online form to register to play at the listed grounds is July 15.

Are you happy with the new rules to use playgrounds in New Town? Write to The Telegraph Salt Lake, 6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001 or email to saltlake@abp.in

Last updated on 24.06.22, 07:15 AM
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