By Pervez Bari
Bhopal: Noted national and international hockey players of yesteryears in Bhopal, once known as “nursery of hockey”, who brought laurels to the country and Madhya Pradesh, are up in arms to see the playground wherein they honed up their skills is on the verge of becoming extinct.
The oldest Bal Vihar Sports Ground in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, is in the headlines these days. In fact, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) is being accused of harassing the people by demolishing the existing shops. Thereafter, move is on to set up a shopping complex around the ground with encroachments of about 40 feet deep into the playground from outside.
In February 2021 “Bhumi poojan” was performed of the new construction after which people’s representatives and social organisations started opposing the move of BMC and submitted memoranda from time to time to this effect. The BMC officials kept giving assurances to the agitating public that the construction work would start only after discussion with them.
However, in November last year all of sudden the works for the proposed shopping complex started. This bewildered the residents of the area, sports lovers and players of the area which enraged them as in five heavily populated localities in the walled city this was the only park-cum-playground. Of this the park had already been devoured due to BMC’s negligence and now playground was being destroyed by raising a concrete jungle over it.
Park vanished due to BMC negligence
BMC which is the caretaker of the said Bal Vihar Park-cum-playground in old Bhopal is on the move to usurp the playground area to build a new commercial centre to upscale its revenue returns. The park has already vanished as over the years gone by constructions of commercial centre, school building, Ward office, Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board office, Sulabh Shauchalay (public toilet) etc. over a big lawn of the park by the BMC. Now, presently only open playing area exists.
BMC officials are working against the sports, environment and urban development policies of the Madhya Pradesh Government which envisages having a playground in each colony/locality/residential areas of the city. BMC has earned crores of rupees as revenue in last 50 years or so from the existing commercial centre built over the park area but hardly ever spent any amount on the maintenance of the playground.
The hockey players past and present for whom this playground has been their alma mater along with others are opposing tooth and nail BMC’s move in the walled city as open spaces are already scarce and existing ones are in shambles due to the negligence of the authorities concerned. The players who started their careers from this ground have raised their voices against this construction.
Mohammad Afaq and Osaf Bablu, members of Bal Vihar Bachao Jan Samiti, said that this ground is the oldest ground in the old city wherein people of the area play games like hockey, cricket, football, table tennis, volleyball, and wrestling. Players here range from former President of India late Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma to international players like Syed Khurshid Ali.
The Bal Vihar Bachao Samiti alleges that the municipal corporation is doing all this to increase its sources of income. The committee members said that due to the ongoing construction, the entire playground would be destroyed and no required space would be left for the people of the area to play in future.
Many national and international sports competitions have also been held on this ground in the past. Many people also donated their private lands during its construction and further development which included some land for the Waqf Cemetery.
Meanwhile, a meeting of international and national players along with local residents of the area was held to discuss the issue of BMC encroachment on Bal Vihar playground. In the meeting social activist Mohammad Afaq threw light on the history of the Bal Vihar park-cum-playground. He informed that BMC Commissioner when he was on a visit at the sight of construction for inspection then he had discussed the issue of encroachment on playing area of the ground. Then the Commissioner had verbally assured him that the playground area will not be encroached upon. However, after that no written order has been issued in this context, Afaq stated.
International hockey player Syed Khursheed Ali recalled the names of legendry hockey players who honed their skills on the ground and brought laurels to India, Bhopal and the playground. Mohammad Raees and Osaf Ali Bablu proposed vote of thanks.
Others who attended this meeting included Nafees-ur-Rahman, Naeem Beg, Sanawwar Ali, Mujahid Jafri, Zulfiquar Ahmad, Mohammad Afaq, Dr. Anis, Aijazuddin Ansari, Khalid Ghaysuddin, Shahansha Bhai, Habeeb Hasan, Raees Ahmad, Shadaab Khan, Fahim Khan, Asif Yar Khan, Mohammad Taufeeq, Ibrahim Ali, Mohammad Yawar, Mohammad Danish, Shahab Ali, Rahil etc. amongst others.
Meanwhile, two local Congress MLAs Arif Aqeel and Arif Masood have also raised objections on this issue. They have written letters to the BMC Commissioner opposing the construction while encroaching upon the playground’s space by constructing more shops.