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Encroachment under the cover of 'open spaces'

Madhuri Rao, Bengaluru, DH News Service, Sep 3 2017, 1:06 IST
Ironically, in most of these cases, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) itself is guilty of encroachments. DH graphics

Ironically, in most of these cases, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) itself is guilty of encroachments. DH graphics

Be it your first bicycle learning class or forming your own cricket team with friends, or even learning how to ride a two-wheeler, playgrounds have been an integral part of our lives, until recently. Lately, most of these playgrounds or 'open spaces,' as the civic body calls them, are on the verge of extinction in the city today due to various reasons.

Ironically, in most of these cases, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) itself is guilty of encroachments. When the Palike comes up with a new plan to develop the city, it largely banks on these spaces as they need not spend more on acquiring land from a private property.

Recently, the state government with the help of the civic body launched about 101 Indira Canteens, a subsidised food outlet to provide meals at a meagre cost of Rs 5 and Rs 10. With the aim of setting up one canteen in each of 198 wards, BBMP struggled to find the space. But parks and playgrounds came in handy this time.

Take, for instance, the canteen built in Kanakanapalya near Ashoka Pillar. Before the structure came up, children from nearby schools used to come and play here everyday. Uma Srinivasan, an employee who works at a startup situated near the play area, says, “It is very disturbing that the children are being deprived of their play area. I used to bring my son here to play along in these slides. Now the children do not come here anymore.”

After building the canteen, the civic body has now divided the play area by erecting grills. Yet the children are nowhere to be seen. When asked about encroaching playgrounds and parks for this purpose, BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad had this to say: “These are open spaces. This is not considered as a playground.”

But this is not a single instance. The playground at a government school on Magadi Road 2nd cross met with a similar fate. A tree was felled and a canteen built on the spot. Here, the compound wall was demolished to construct the canteen. “Children from eight nearby schools come to play here as this is one of the biggest playgrounds. Where should they go to play now?” wonders a disappointed Basavaraju, who resides in the neighbourhood.

“We play cricket and kho-kho here. Now we will play on the other side of the ground,” says Naveen M, a third standard student who plays here with his friends regularly.
To questions on these blatant encroachments, the BBMP topbrass responds with a counter: Why did not this issue come up when playgrounds were encroached to put up several outlets of Nandini and HOPCOMS.

Some of playground-cum-parks have also eaten up the spaces kept aside for children. In Sanjaynagar, the park-cum-playground is a now hangout spot for senior citizens who usually send the children to play on the other side. “We play when the elders are not there,” says a young Shashank. For children in Banashankari 6th stage, and Anjanapura Layout, there are no proper playgrounds. A portion of the playground at Jaynagar 5th block playground has been occupied by a temple.

The number of notified parks was calculated in the month of May, 2015. However, the senior officials of the civic body had refused to furnish the details of the number of notified playgrounds prior 2015. Even though it is clearly mentioned in the Karnataka Parks, Play-fields and Open Spaces (Prevention and Regulation Act), 1985 that these areas should not be used for any other purpose, nothing is stopping the civic body from encroaching upon the open spaces.


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