Nkda will organize sports training on its playgrounds | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: one day after the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) issued a notice at its playgrounds, announcing that access to the facilities would be limited to residents of the township only, it said on Tuesday, the authority would organize sports supervision on the ground.
All 10 playgrounds in the township were padlocked after the NKDA shut down cricket, football and martial arts camps there. On Tuesday, only township citizens, who could provide NKDA-issued ID cards, were allowed to enter the playgrounds.
The NKDA notification and restriction of access to playgrounds, a public space, sparked a debate on Tuesday with a public action group writing to NKDA Chairman Debashis Sen expressing strong opposition to the proposal.
Sen told TOI on Tuesday that the decision was made following complaints from some residents that outsiders were occupying the land, denying their children a chance to play. “Training camps were organized on these playgrounds without our permission. Why should we allow someone to use it commercially? New Town Business Club, a unit of NKDA, will arrange coaching facilities instead,” Sen said, adding that payment of fees for coaching camps should be made to NKDA and not to an individual.
Sources said there had also been friction between neighborhood committees over the right to playgrounds. “There are about 30 blocks but only 10 NKDA playgrounds. Some block committees, which have playgrounds in their blocks, took advantage of the proximity and made it their own. They would refuse those in other blocks who did not have access to a playground,” an official said. But New Town CE Block resident Laha tapas said that while the security measures were welcome, control of playgrounds should be in the hands of the block committee. Another resident of the block said he was looking forward to NKDA reopening the land for children. “The children have been absent from the field since June. It would be good if sports training by NKDA started as soon as possible,” said Ankur Roy Chowdhury, the resident.
But many have wondered how a government agency could discriminate between citizens and restrict access to a public space. The citizens’ action group PUBLIC, in a letter to the chairman of the NKDA, argued that such a restriction was a clear violation of the doctrine of public trust, which required the state to provide basic services as constitutional duty. “The restrictions are just bad in spirit and create a new division among people, based on civic parochialism,” said activist Bonani Kakkar, who also questioned the NKDA’s statutory right to impose such restrictions given the history of land acquisition that resulted in the formation of New Ville. “Would residents of New Town be happy to pay a non-resident tax when they come to cinemas and restaurants in Kolkata? Does NKDA then start collecting transit fees from cars passing through New Town to the airport? Please reconsider and revoke this rather bizarre proposal,” she added.
The author and columnist of the Jews of Kolkata also wondered how New Town could close its parks to non-residents when they were public spaces paid for with public money. “That would be like saying they couldn’t walk on the lawns of Victoria Memorial, enjoy the Maidan or visit Rabindra Sarobar. The interest of public spaces is that they are open to the public and not reserved, like private spaces, to owners. These are public goods,” she reiterated.


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Kristen T. Prall