Playground lease puts Palike, school in a fix

A row over playground space has put the 98-year-old Clarence High School in a tight spot.

The school, located in Richard’s Town, had secured its playground on ‘perpetual lease’ from BBMP.

The playground is near the Gymkhana Grounds on Wheeler Road, about two km from the school. In the tug-of-war between the residents around Wheeler Road and the school, students of the school are at risk of losing their playground.

On Tuesday morning, members of the Bharathi Nagar Residents’ Forum, Cox Town Residents’ Forum and Student Union Football Club staged a demonstration at the playground demanding that the local residents be allowed to use the grounds.

“There is no place for senior citizens to go for a walk and for children in the neighbourhood to play,” said N S Prakash, president of Bharathi Nagar Residents Forum.

The residents do not mind sharing the land with the school. But, the place should be open to all, Prakash told Deccan Herald.

Deputy mayor S Harish said BBMP was planning to “withdraw the land” from the school. “It is given on a perpetual lease to them. They are not allowed to construct any building on the premises, but the school has constructed a building there.

“We have also come to know that the school has used it for commercial activity on a few occasions,” he said.

He wondered why the school wanted the space fully for itself when it uses the ground only once a year, for annual sports day.

“Since there is also a proposal for road widening and as the land should benefit the public as well, we are going to withdraw the land,” he said. The playground measuring 2.56 acres and was leased out to the school in 1945 at 50 paise per annum.

‘Not aware’

When contacted, Principal Benny Joseph told Deccan Herald that he was not aware of any such move by BBMP. “A few middlemen are creating trouble to serve their selfish motives. BBMP has not informed the school of any such decision,” he said.

“In the lease document given to the school, it is specified explicitly that it is only for the purpose of the school. Nowhere does it mention that it is open to the public.” This is the only playground the school has, without which students will not have space for sports, he said. The playground issue has exposed the rift between the Office of the East Zone and the Major Roads department of the Palike.

According to sources in the East Zone office, the Major Roads department had demolished the playground wall for widening the road from 40 feet to 60 feet, without their permission.

“The school had approached us to construct a new compound wall to safeguard the children as the old wall was dilapidated. We had given permission so as to safeguard our property and the children. However, the Major Roads department decided to bring down the wall, giving in to pressure from local politicians,” said the sources.

BBMP officials at the head office said: “We had given them land on lease and we are reclaiming it for public purpose”.

Case against MLA

School Principal Joseph lodged a complaint with the Pulakeshinagar police under Section 447 of the IPC (criminal trespass) against C V Raman Nagar MLA Raghu, former MLA Surana, BBMP executive engineer Nagaraj on charges of trespassing the school premises.

Raghu initiated road widening, not knowing about the lease. Nagaraj did not know whether the lease period had expired or not. They started the work on Monday.

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