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Playground rights up for grabs in New Town

NKDA seeks to hand over use and upkeep of eight playgrounds in New Town’s Action Area I to resident bodies or educational institutes

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 20.01.23, 10:03 AM
An informal match being played on the DC Block ground

An informal match being played on the DC Block ground

The block residents' associations can use the fenced off playgrounds in their neighbourhood unhindered if they are ready to take on the burden of paying for annual maintenance. The offer is open to schools and colleges as well.

The New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) has issued a notice on Tuesday, which is uploaded on its website, inviting applications in this regard from resident welfare associations (RWA) and educational institutions for eight football grounds developed by NKDA in Action Area 1.


The grounds, cordoned off with high steel fencing, are located in AL, BA, BC, CB, CE, DA, DB and DC blocks.

The selected institution or RWA will have to submit a security deposit of Rs 10 lakh during the period of agreement which will initially be for a period of 11 months. This can be renewed for two more terms with a gap of one day between successive terms. In case of damages to the property due to poor performance by the selected institution, the repair cost will be adjusted from the security deposit. The balance amount will be refunded at the end of the contract period.

Morning and evening walkers will continue to get free access. The notice also mentions that "no charges will be recovered from the general users” by the selected body. It will have the right to play and organize events for their resident or students and staffers.

The use and maintenance rights include the right to organise coaching camps for students and children.

But in case the ground is rented to an outside party for any event or sports tournament, prior permission will have to be taken from NKDA and half of the rent will have to be paid to the development authority. The rate for such rents has been stipulated to be the same as that of the NKDA football ground, i.e. Rs 500 plus GST for every hour from 9am to 4pm and Rs 1000 per hour plus GST from 4pm to 8pm. For electricity consumption beyond 8pm, an extra charge would have to be paid.

A format for application has been drawn up. The applicant has to show proof of campus and affilitation to appropriate authority or proof of property ownership in New Town and registration of RWA in Action Area 1. The number of sports teachers and trainers and sports courses offered will have to be specified. Past achievements in terms of inter-instituition prizes will also have to be documented.

Children being trained by a coach at the camp run by NKDA in AL Block.

Children being trained by a coach at the camp run by NKDA in AL Block.

Sudeshna Banerjee

The backstory

The biggest bone of contention regarding the playgrounds has been the right to organize sports coaching camps. Several block associations used to run coaching camps for football and cricket funded by the coaching fees collected from the children who enrolled. The running of private coaching camps by block associations had raised the NKDA's hackles, leading to the grounds being padlocked for several weeks for the better part of the day in mid-2022. The practice was banned amid charges of the block associations minting money using NKDA land.

Though all sporting and physical activity by residents from 5am to 8pm was made free, residents had to register themselves with the NKDA by filling up an online form.

The discontinuation of the coaching camps had led to children being denied their sports break.

On residents' demand, NKDA started holding coaching camps under the banner of the New Town Business Club. The first camp to start was in AL Block. A second camp started in November in CE Block, where the coach who had been commissioned by the block association was retained to revive the camp. 

Children play under lights at the CE Block coaching camp.

Children play under lights at the CE Block coaching camp.

Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee

Takeover worry

The latest development has upset most residents. "We were having problems with the lights being switched off at the DC Block ground as early as 6pm since December 27, which had stopped our volleyball practice. Even then, we have now managed to take a connection from an adjacent house and were continuing playing under minimal illumination. But with this notification, we are worried if some private entity, be it educational or otherwise, takes control of the ground where will we go to play?" said Syed Javed Ahmed, a resident of BC Block who plays volleyball at the DC Block ground with friends. The assistant secretary of the BC Block association, who also holds the same post at the New Town Youth Club, plans to meet the local MLA and MP as well as the urban development minister to get the notice revoked.

Similar concerns are plaguing president of the CE Block Cultural Association Debdas Chatterjee, under whose supervision the block's coaching camps for both cricket and football were running since November 18, 2018 till middle of 2022 when the NKDA had banned the camps. Now the football camp is running again, but under NKDA supervision. "Where will we get Rs 10 lakh? We are mostly pensioners here," he said of the security  deposit that is being sought.

The block has close to 50 children playing football at the camp, including 12 girls. “A private institute will surely not allow us to continue our camp on their ground,” Chatterjee said.

Samaresh Das, the chairman of New Town Forum & News, a residents' unbrella welfare body, expression reservations about the scheme's success. "There is no way any block welfare association can raise that kind of money as it would take close to a lakh of rupees to maintain such huge parks and bear even security and electricity costs. The block associations do not have paid membership. The only revenue they have is puja subscription which is spent on Puja itself. The big highrise complexes, which can afford to pay, have grounds on their own premises. So the grounds are likely to pass into the hands of private entities which are certain to want to do business here to raise the money for maintenance. This will lead to a plethora of events, including wedding receptions and parties, with associated problems like music being played at loud volume in residential areas," he said. Nor would anyone want to take up these parks with restrictive clauses like having to take permission before every event and share half the revenue, he pointed out.

The block associations plan to submit their objections in writing to the NKDA. "We will seek the chief minister's intervention, if nothing else works," said Ahmed.

Do you agree with NKDA’s move to allow private players maintain and use playgrounds?

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Last updated on 20.01.23, 10:03 AM

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