SALEM: Mahatma Gandhi. The name might be synonymous with non-violence and prohibition across the world, but the Stadium in Salem named after him has come to represent everything anti-social — underage kids drinking alcohol, students watching porn and robbers using the place as a hideout among other things.
Mahatma Gandhi Stadium is situated at Omalur Main Road near Sankar nagar. Residents in the locality use this stadium for their morning and evening walks. Sportspersons practise here and a sports hostel operates on premises. The stadium connects Anna Park road and Periyar Over bridge. During the day, school and college students come here, change out of their uniforms, buy liquor from a wine shop at Mulluvadi Gate and drink while sitting near the compound wall. Often, they gather around and watch adult movies on mobile phones. A few months back, a police personnel, who visited the stadium to play, saw this scene. He broke the students’ phones using a stone and warned the students against such activities.
It seem to have little effect. Small boys between the ages of 13 and 15 years frequent the stadium. Many government, aided and private schools function within the two kilometre radius of the Stadium and students make use of the proximity to bunk classes. The high compound walls shield the students from prying eyes, if any. Stadium officials seem unconcerned about this or are scared to act.
In the night, no streetlights between the Gandhi stadium and Anna Park stretch make it easy for robbers, hiding under the Periyar Over bridge, to attack two wheeler riders. Two months back, Thangam (50), of Manakadu and a casual labourer, was on his way home at night when two persons stopped his bike and attacked him. He sustained minor injuries. The robbers took `300 from him and fled. Speaking to Express, his relatives said that fear of losing wages if summoned by police often in connection with a case was the reason why no case was filed. “Until four months back, Hasthampatti police were engaged in night rounds here and incidents of robbery and liquor consumption was in check. But for the last three months, there were no rounds or vehicle checks by the police either near the Stadium or in the surrounding areas. Using the darkness for cover, thugs use this place as their den,” says an official of Sports Development Authority of TN (SDAT).
When contacted, Salem City (north) Assistant Commissioner D Gunasekaran assured to send police for night and day rounds regularly and promised to take stern action against anti-social elements.