In Dehradun, whose grounds are they any way?

Dehra Dun: There were four huge fields in the heart of the state capital of Uttarakhand, which not only served as the city’s lungs, but where promising young players could spend hours practicing. They are the Parade Ground, the Pavilion Ground, the Gandhi Park and the Rangers College Ground, which were in close proximity to each other and ideal for players of various disciplines to converge.

However, over the years the Parade Ground which was used for public meetings of leaders and also for holding of exhibitions and where circus would put up their great top for performances, has been taken over by all and sundry. A part of it is a local bus stand, another part has buildings that came over, another portion has an overhead water tank and encroachments just seem to be reducing its size.

Pavilion Ground

The space for parking vehicles at Pavilion Ground was encroached and now has a bazaar with shops galore with nothing being done despite they being illegal settlers. The portion outside where volleyball teams practiced has been taken over for broadening the road and the old timers who remember the ground as a popular venue for football matches, just hang their head in shame at its state of affairs.

The Gandhi Park was earlier maintained with the green grounds and flower beds and shrubs of various hues. Lovers would sit here looking at each other mooney- eyed, while in the mornings and evenings men with graying hair would hold their laughing and exercising sessions. Today it is the venue for all demonstrations and dharnas and a place where youngsters can hit the bottle on the sly.

And the last but not the least is the Rangers College Ground. Long back it was used by the Rangers College, which was just adjoining the ground for the trainee rangers to play. It was also used by the children of the adjoining St Thomas’s School as their play field. And despite both the big gates of the ground being locked, players from the city would converge for practicing hockey, throw ball, athletics and cricket.

Over two decades back, the filed had never been let out for any other event, and only athletic meets, cricket and hockey tournaments were held here, but then it started being given on rent, albeit to the mighty and powerful initially, but then to the lay and sundry who could pay the price. Marriage receptions also were held here and lately Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri and his team of ministers also took oath of office here.

However, sensing a lacuna in its ownership and also the fact that the prime land could become a money spinner, by outing it to some other use, the state government has staked claim to being the owner of the land and even put up a board stating that it is the owner. The plea taken is that the Forest Research Institute, of which the Rangers College was a part, had not renewed the lease which reportedly expired in 1997 and hence the land comes automatically under the ownership of the state government.

It is another matter that the neither Uttarakhand nor the state government came into assistance before 9 Nov 2000.

Sadly, much to the disappointment of the large number of players who had practiced in this ground in the past and plan doing so now, the field has itself now become a football between the Uttarakhand government and the Forest Research Institute (FRI), which claims that ground was initially leased to it in 1880 and after the lease expired in 1907, its ownership was transferred, which can be ascertained from the municipal records.

The question, will this ground also go abegging and meet the same fate as the other lungs of the city which is today become a city of concrete, pollution and filth.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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