Washermen demand dhobi ghat at Gandhi Maidan - Lack of open space triggers appeal to dry clothes at historical venue

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  • Published 14.02.12

Patna, Feb. 13: Imagine one fine morning you wake up and go to Gandhi Maidan for a stroll and find clothes of residents lined up for drying.

Scary ain’t?

Well, if washermen of the state capital have their way, the historical venue could turn into a sprawling arena to dry up washed clothes.

The lack of open space forced washermen to pay a visit to the chief minister’s darbar today seeking his intervention in the rapid decline in space to dry washed clothes. A few from the washermen’s community urged Nitish Kumar to allow them to use Gandhi Maidan to dry clothes.

“The Ganga ghats are being spruced up and empty spaces have vanished. Please allow us to use the Gandhi Maidan to dry clothes,” Ashok Rajak, the president of Patna Zila Razak Samiti, told the chief minister.

Nitish, however, appeared “not-convinced” by the logic put forward by the washermen.

“What are you talking about? How can I allow you to use the place, which is used by children for playing and for hosting important events, for drying clothes?” Nitish wondered.

He directed the surprised washermen to meet the Patna district magistrate and discuss the issue with him. The chief minister told his secretary S. Siddharth that it was not possible to allow drying clothes at Gandhi Maidan.

The washermen, however, did not lose heart and approached district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh. Chief minister’s secretary Atish Chandra took Ashok to the district magistrate and said: “Sanjay, look at his man, the chief minister has sent him to you. He wants to dry clothes at Gandhi Maidan. Look into it and see what you can do.”

Sanjay read the application and asked Ashok the matter. Ashok said: “Sir, beautification work is being carried out across the city. There is hardly any place for us to dry the washed clothes. Where will we go? Our profession is on the verge of extinction. We must get a place at Gandhi Maidan to dry the clothes. There is no other option left.”

The district magistrate, too, was not convinced with the request. He said: “Practically it’s not possible to allow you to dry clothes at the maidan. Submit your application, I will see to it and will let you know what we can do in the case.” Ashok told The Telegraph: “It is a serious problem for the washermen community. If the government is planning to beautify the city, they must also take our problem into consideration. There are around 5,000 washermen in the city but the government is not taking our problem seriously. There is no other place in Patna better than Gandhi Maidan, which can accommodate the clothes of each washermen.”

Food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak, who is also the national president of Akhil Bharatiya Dhobi Mahasangh, said: “The government is serious about their plight but the demand of providing Gandhi Maidan is not practical. There should be a particular place to dry clothes in all localities across the city.”