BENGALURU: It may be just a 11,333 sq yard playground in the centre of the city, but it costs a great deal for both citizens and the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA). Not many people are aware that the empty playground opposite Ambedkar Bhavan in Vasanth Nagar is rented out for just Re 1 to Mount Carmel College (MCC) for a lease of 99 years since 1958, which was agreed upon by the then City
Improvement Trust Board (CITB).
A controversy swirls around the ground as Bengalureans, especially Vasanth Nagar residents, feel that more can be done with the land.
The congested area does not have a public park or space for people to go on walks. Also, the Vasanth Nagar 8th Main Road, which is also known as the ‘Loafer’s Lane’, sees heavy traffic jams.
“I had approached the college principal to consider building a park that could benefit the nearby residents or to use it as parking space. But the college administration told us that they are using it for their own purposes,” said Raj Dugar, a resident of Vasanth Nagar.
Prakash George, who resides near the ground, said, “Senior citizens do not have a place to walk like in other areas. Since the college talks about its social work, why not consider building a pedestrian track,” he asked.
On rumours that the ground is rented out for commercial purposes and the college earns money through such events, MCC Vice-Principal Charmaine Jerome said, “We are not permitted to do so. Permission to park vehicles of our students during working days has been obtained from the authorities, and students make use of this facility. As per the rules laid down by the BDA, we do not give the ground for commercial events, but only for sports activities. The false allegation made against the college is deplorable.”
The Bangalore Development Authority, which was formed in 1989 under a new set of rules, has repeatedly objected to the college paying the same rent of Re 1 per annum. In 2009, the BDA sent a notice asking the college to pay a lease amount of Rs 2,68,63,041 since 1989.
The college was expected to pay Rs 28,440 per annum, but it approached the Karnataka High Court in 2010.
The court requested the BDA to take into consideration the college’s plea that it was doing social service by producing several educated women. In 2018, BDA had written to the State Government on extending the agreement with the college.
Later that year, the Urban Development Department (UDD) ordered that the agreement must be honoured as per the 1958 decision. In 2019, the Finance Member of BDA too clarified to its then Commissioner that the State Government’s order would be honoured.
The current BDA Commissioner GV Prakash was not aware of such a case until The New Indian Express brought it to his notice.
“The matter will be taken into consideration since all agreements made by CITB was cancelled after the new BDA rules came into place. No other place has such insane rent,” he said.