Shimla: Not being able to dispossess the army authorities from the prized Annadale ground, the district administration has evoked an arbitration clause to resume a property that has been occupied by the army since 1955.
Talking to Hill Post, Onkar Sharma, deputy commissioner said, â€œOver 130 bighas of land at Annadale ground is under ownership of the government which on paper is recorded to be in possession of Gymkhana Club.â€
â€œA lease signed between the government and the army authorities ended in 1982, and clause 4 in the lease agreement provides for arbitration should a dispute arise. We have evoked that arbitration clause before the divisional commissioner court at Shimla,â€ he added.
While the district administration has moved court, a signature campaign by the district cricket association (DCA) to get the ground vacated by the army has found tremendous support as over 75,000 till date have signed up.
â€œAnnadale is the only big public ground in the state capital,â€ says Surinder Thakur, DCA president, â€œand the army should vacate it as the city desperately needs it.â€
The association intends to collect 1 lakh signatures and submit a memorandum to defense minister AK Antony through state chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Relations between the state and the army authorities over the ground usage remain strained for the army even restricts helicopter landing facilities for civilian use on it.
Other than chopper landing facilities and mock drills, the army has developed a golf course where top brass along senior bureaucrats and police officers play regularly.
On Sunday speaking at the Times-Audi Golf Tournament at Naldehra, chief minister PK Dhumal in the presence Lt. General K.Surendra Nath, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, ARTRAC that is station in Shimla said that the army should vacate the ground as the government needs it for developing a multi discipline sporting complex.
Sources revealed that when Himachal Pradesh was only a territorial council, the concerned state authority and the army did sign a 10 year lease agreement in April, 1955 for the contentious ground.
With the lease having expired in 1965 a status quo remained till 1982, when a new agreement was signed that regularized the lease for an annual amount of Rs 2/- upto March 1982.
In 1988, the district collector also did issue notice for resumption of the leased ground but was not executed.
Football did take the fancy of Bengal but the inaugural Durand Cup, Indiaâ€™s oldest football tournament named after Mortimer Durand then foreign secretary, was played at Annadale in 1888.
British troops belonging to Royal Scots Fusiliers regiment beat Highland Light Infantry with a score of 2-1 in the final of the inaugural tournament in 1888.