Sunday, March 22, 2009

Siri Fort sports complex Shuts down for Upgradation, Members Panic

Siri Fort sports complex Shuts down for Upgradation, Members PanicSiri Fort Sports Complex which has been a venue for nearly 8,000 people for everyday recreation and training purposes, are now being forced to stay away with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) deciding to close facilities for renovation ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The members termed this move as “unnecessary” and “frustrating”.

A member of the core committee of Siri Fort Complex stated that despite letters and registered complaints to the DDA, their request for stopping the closure and renovation without considering the interest of members and residents has been totally ignored.

He added that they sent letters to the lieutenant governor and the chief minister and even then they have not listened. Now DDA has begun to destroy the perfectly good pool, tearing down the changing rooms just to make it one foot longer to meet international Olympic standards.

The residents feel strongly that there is no need to shut the complex for two years.

Bharatinder Singh, a doctor who is the over-55 national squash champion and teaches kids at the sports complex said in a very angry mood that they are not against renovation and closure but this could have been done in a phased manner. There is no need for the additional courts or closing the pool in the peak summer time.

The DDA is making 12 new squash courts and revamping the existing six courts within the same premises that have been deemed adequate by the Squash Racquets Federation Of India for training purposes for the games.

Three months back, four of the six courts were renovated - the added feature was “unnecessary” false ceilings.

There are other qualms as well. Like the need to renovate the badminton courts and fit it with a viewing gallery and to construct a covered concrete gymnasium in the middle of the courts.

“They are even going to use granite in open spaces. They refuse to give us details yet they’ll close the facilities for 18 months. Where will everybody go?” asked M.L. Lahoti, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and member of the Siri Fort’s core committee.

Lahoti, who had successfully put a stop to the felling of trees for ‘development’ on 25 acres of the complex earlier this year via a Supreme Court order, is upset that the DDA is not disclosing its intentions to members.

“We know this - they are using the public money to revamp the entire do. We estimate it to be around Rs.400-440 million,” Lahoti said.

So, while the DDA spends hundreds of millions on beautification and remodeling of facilities, the members are clueless about what they’ll do in the two-year period when the complex of which they are paid members remains closed.

“Thousands of kids and adults go to the centre daily to work out. This is not only good for social well being but also for keeping ailments like heart attacks, obesity, diabetes and arthritis at bay,” said Singh, who is also the convener of health and medical services for the 2010 games.

In his complaint to the DDA, Singh has written that the whole exercise of destroying and then rebuilding is a waste of funds as the courts can be upgraded to meet international standards at 20 percent of the cost.

Eventually, the mega revamp project would impact 8,500 people who use various facilities daily at the complex including the likes of national-level tennis, squash and badminton players, including youth tennis star Yuki Bhambhri and his sister Ankita Bhambhri for the crucial two years.

DDA officials, however, claimed that the facilities were being closed for the “yearly upgrade”.
“I don’t know what the complaint is but this is like the yearly upgrade that we do, for which some facilities are being closed,” DDA spokesperson Neem Dhar said.

Members and residents of the complex are strong in their resolve to stop the renovation and have staged candle light vigils and protest marches over the past week.

“There needs to be a public forum and consultation with players. The next step is public interest litigation with the Supreme Court,” Lahoti stressed.

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