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BMC’s open spaces policy is controversial—to say the least

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has recovered 34 of 36 open spaces by January 28 on the basis of a notice issued on the 18th of that month.

But the battle for Mumbai’s green lungs is far from over.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had ordered the taking back of 200-plus open spaces—maintained by private organizations. He also asked that the new open spaces policy be reviewed.

The BMC intends to outsource maintenance of these playgrounds and recreation areas to private organizations and corporate entities.

This has been opposed by activists who believe that it is the BMC’s responsibility to support these open spaces. They are of the opinion that parcelling out upkeep of these facilities leaves the door open to misuse of these open spaces as in the past when they were used to generate income via commercial activities.

The municipal body, however, claims that maintaining open spaces is not an obligatory function.

The BMC’s new open spaces bill tabled and passed in its assembly hopes to improve on the previous caretaker policy.

Seema Kamdar of First Post writes:

“After all, as the corporation says, taking care of the open spaces does not fall under its obligatory roster. Rather, it’s a discretionary activity, and clearly not important. All that it expects from its lessees for such spaces – also called RGPG for recreation grounds, gardens, parks and playgrounds – is a perimeter fence, a security guard and a toilet; the rest was up to its imagination.”

On the caretaker policy, Kamdar writes:

“The caretaker policy, developed in 1991, permitted construction on 15 percent of the area, such as club, gymnasia, etc. The history of the adoption and caretaker policy of Mumbai of public open spaces is criss-crossed with stories of rampant misuse, illegal construction, controlling public access or restricting their hours of free access, exploitation for commercial benefit, neglect of maintenance, poor or no security leading to encroachment and such brazen flouting of the rules.”

Sayli Udas-Mankikar writing for DNA India terms the new policy ‘draconian’.

She says:

“A draconian policy, it puts out over 1068 spaces, including parks, playgrounds and gardens spanning over 1200 acres, roughly the size of 588 international football pitches, up for adoption. Some of these are sadly fated to become ‘clubs’ under a special clause.”

She adds:

“There is no explanation to why the BMC, the richest corporation in the country, which has set aside Rs200-crore for maintaining open spaces — calculations show it comes to Rs36 lakh per plot — cannot maintain these little patches of green.

What is disheartening is the cavalier attitude of public representatives, who will be knocking on our doors for votes during the 2017 BMC elections exactly a year later. The Shiv Sena, which is putting up a fight to open up the Mahalaxmi race course as a public park, has been at the forefront of clearing this policy. The BJP sold a pup to the citizens by first agreeing to rework the policy, and then did a volte face to back the Sena. The opposition merely took to photo-ops a day later as a mark of protest.

The BMC gives feeble arguments to justify the policy. Without any defined objective, it favours private entities to qualify as adopters over the more desirable local community organisations. The selection committee itself has no citizen-representative or an expert to veto the administrative proposals. Issues like greening missions, sport, women’s safety, heritage, local culture and multi-use of spaces do not even find a mention. This does not behove a city with global aspirations.”

The new open spaces policy envisages placing the caretaker bodies under the Right To Information (RTI) act thus making them accountable to the general public.

Right to Information (RTI) expert Shailesh Gandhi  said, “This is not an open space policy, but kidnapping policy.”

Shailesh Gaekwad writes for Hindustan Times:

“It would make more sense for the citizen groups to now demand that the maintenance of open spaces be included among the obligatory duties of the BMC and of course a policy which favours the citizens, not politicians and moneybags.”

Lodha Committee suggested reforms turns up the heat on BCCI bigwigs

English: Ranji Trophy

Ranji Trophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will the Mumbai Cricket Association, Maharashtra Cricket Association and Vidarbha Cricket Association be merged into one state body?

That’s the loaded question the BCCI hopes to discover answers to when the Lodha Committee  make a fresh set of recommendations on January 4 next year.

It is believed that the committee is keen on reducing over-representation from Maharashtra and Gujarat in the BCCI.

Gujarat has three Ranji associations too: Saurashtra Cricket Association, Baroda Cricket Association and Gujarat Cricket Association.

Andhra Pradesh has two but Hyderabad could be assimilated into the new state of Telengana.

These reforms could deal a body blow to Mumbai cricket and its rich traditions.

Mumbai have 40 Ranji victories to their credit in the tourney’s multi-storied history.

The record books indicate 16 Irani Cup, two Vijay Hazare Trophy, five Wills Trophy, and a single Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

CCI Mumbai - Main entrance: lobby of the club ...

CCI Mumbai – Main entrance: lobby of the club house with replica of original Ranji Trophy as centerpiece. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Mumbai cricket team was formed under the Bombay Presidency and continued as part of the Bombay province until independence in 1947 when Bombay became Bombay state.

The formation of Maharashtra led to the assimilation of the city into its boundaries and it was made its capital.

Bombay continued as a separate Ranji team and continues to compete separately from Maharashtra state.

The Vidarbha cricket team was founded in 1957.

The Maharashtra cricket team has two Ranji trophy wins to its credit coming in 1939/40 and 1940/41.

Saurashtra are another side that have clinched the national title winning in 1936-37 and were also runners up in the very next season of 1937-38.

Baroda are five-time victors: 2000-01, 1957-58, 1949-50,  1946-47, and 1942-43.

They were established in 1930.

The Gujarat Cricket Association were founded in 1950.

There are 27 teams in the Ranji set-up.

19 State teams are currently participating in the tournament.

The Lodha Committee may also consider disallowing BCCI officials from holding positions in their state bodies.

This is purportedly to prevent a conflict of interest.

The implementation of this would be interesting—to put it mildly.

The ICC too functions like the BCCI with national cricket association heads elected to the ICC executive.

Similarly, the FIFA executive functions by appointing members from its respective confederations:

  • CONMEBOL: one vice-president and two members
  • AFC: one vice-president and three members
  • UEFA: two vice-presidents and five members
  • CAF: one vice-president and three members
  • CONCACAF: one vice-president and two members
  • OFC: one vice-president

What the Lodha Committee suggests is that the BCCI should function like the United Nations with country representatives differing from national heads.

This could be workable only if there are sufficiently experienced administrators available to be elected both at the state and national level.

Is that the case?

Is this an attempt to create more positions and thus more opportunities for both experienced and budding sports administrators within the annals of power within the BCCI and its member associations? That surely is not the mandate of the Lodha committee.

This could also be an ‘insidious’ attempt to bring the BCCI under the purview of the proposed Sports Bill which does not envisage more than three terms for an individual at the helm of any National Sports Federation with a cooling off period after two terms. Presidents are exempted from the cooling off period.

Office bearers are also to retire at 70.

The proposed Sports Bill (in 2013) sought to make the BCCI accountable to the general public by making it liable to respond to Right To Information (RTI) applications about its functioning.

Indranil Basu , reporting for CricBuzz, writes:

“The general belief within the BCCI is that the acumen and experience gained from being part of the board helps the administrators run their state bodies better. It is also believed that staying in the loop would only help streamline the system.

Drawing a parallel with the country’s political system, the board members said that it would create a situation where the ministers serving the government would not be allowed to be a part of the Parliament or legislative bodies. It simply can’t work. Today the board has an asset worth Rs 10,000 crore. In the last six years, the board has paid Rs 100 crore as income tax and gets the country around Rs 400 crore worth of foreign exchange every year. When India won the first World Cup in 1983, the board didn’t have Rs 2 lakh to honour its world champions. We are a professional body and deserve that respect, the official said.”

The most ‘damaging’ reform suggested may be the one that would prevent industrialists and politicians from participating in BCCI politics.

That would really set the cat among the pigeons.

Club culture comes to women’s cricket courtesy the MCA

Women’s cricket in Mumbai will have a new tournament beginning March 2016.

A 40-over tournament featuring eight sides is to be introduced by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).

PV Shetty, joint secretary of Mumbai Cricket Association, said:

“There are not many tournaments for women. And, we have just one inter-school tournament. To give importance to women’s cricket and encourage it, we are going to get them involved in club culture. Our president Sharad Pawar backs women’s cricket big time. Even the new BCCI president Shashank Manohar is a keen promoter of women’s cricket.”

The Cricket Improvement Committee suggested the initiative which was then immediately ratified by the Managing Committee.

Shetty added:

“We have a slot in March, hence that could be the time we might host it. We have decided the eight teams. We have chosen teams that promote the game big time in the city like Sainath CC, Payyade SC, DY Patil CC, Shivaji Park Gymkhana, Karnataka Sporting Association and Sind CC besides others. We will see that all the areas of Mumbai is covered.

We will first see how it goes. There are around 200-250 women who play serious cricket. If there are more players taking interest, we will definitely increase the number of teams.”

There are not many woman cricketers because there is no job prospect. Railways is the only organisation that offers jobs. Parents don’t let them play if there is no job. We would also like to create job opportunities for them by talking to corporates and introducing inter-office tournament.”

Kalpana Murkar, legendary Dronacharya award-winning coach Ramakant Achrekar’s daughter, said:

“This will be a good opportunity for youngsters. At the junior level, there is an inter-school tournament which is yet to be held this season. Even the inter-college tournament is yet to take place. We used to have a club tournament under Bombay Women’s Cricket Association when women’s cricket was not merged with BCCI. However, this opportunity will be fantastic.”

The tourney will be a shot in the arm for women’s cricket in the city.

This year, the first-ever All India women’s inter-university cricket tournament  almost did not take place with three of eight venues refusing to host the matches.

Parsee Gymkhana, Islam Gymkhana and PJ Hindu Gymkhana were the truant clubs.

Islam Gymkhana manager Hanif Shaikh said :

“On November 18, we received the letter from MCA informing us about the tournament and within three days we wrote back to them about our inability to host matches. As it is the wedding season, the ground is occupied on all dates and hence unavailable for the tournament.”

PJ Hindu Gymkhana’s cricket secretary Maulik Merchant said:

“The Police Shield and Purshottam Shield matches are being conducted at our ground so there is no slot available for this women’s tournament.”

The tournament did take place finally with fresh venues selected.

Indian Airlines Sports Club ground (Kalina), Vengsarkar Academy ground (Churchgate), Shivaji Park Gymkhana and Bengal Club (Shivaji Park, Dadar), National Cricket Club and Karnataka Sporting Association ground (Cross Maidan), Khalsa College (Matunga) grounds hosted the matches.

The 34-team-tournament was organised by Rizvi College of Arts, Science & Commerce along with Mumbai University, under the aegis of MCA.

A Mid-Day editorial stated:

“This is a happy ending to a disappointingly familiar story. So many times, local sports – women’s sports in particular – are hard put to find venues. Local sports take a backseat at times, because our city maidans and gymkhanas are eyeing the big bucks that events and weddings bring. The sporting season in the city often runs parallel to the wedding season. The festive season too, often clashes with the sports season that is in full swing at the end of the year, thanks to relatively cooler temperatures.

Meanwhile, the women’s game gets short shrift on several fronts. One knows the huge gap in rewards when it comes to international cricket. But local women’s cricket too plays second fiddle to boys’ tourneys. The number of tournaments for girls are much fewer compared to boys, and there are relatively fewer venues too, which host the women’s game.

A paucity of grounds, lack of facilities like changing rooms, showers and toilets at several grounds actually make several girls drop out of local sport altogether. Every effort is needed to push women’s cricket, and for that, there is a need to start at the school level and give the same opportunities at university level as well. It is heartening to know that after initial hiccups, the first ever inter-university women’s cricket tourney is set to take off, after all. Women’s cricket, and sports in general, needs all the support it can get. “

Indo-Pak cricketing ties derailed by opportunistic politics and unrealistic expectations

It’s a crying shame, really.

Shahryar Khan, former Pakistan Foreign secretary.

Shahryar Khan, former Pakistan Foreign secretary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shashank Manohar may have begun ‘Operation Clean-Up’ on the right foot but the even-handed BCCI President couldn’t prevent Shiv Sena activists from barging into his headquarters in Mumbai and disrupting the scheduled bilateral series talks with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) counterpart Shahryar Khan.

Boria Majumdar puts it aptly in his column:

“In India we celebrate cultural tolerance and plurality, we are forever ready to uphold freedom of expression and speech and most importantly are always open to dialogue. What happened in Mumbai goes against the very grain of what we stand for and that’s what has left us all with a sour aftertaste. Had Shashank Manohar been able to tell Shahryar Khan that the series is off because the situation is not conducive or the government has not given bilateral cricket a go ahead, it would have been far better for both cricket Boards. But to see a meeting stymied by a few political extremists who barged into the office of the BCCI president, which was left unguarded and to see these pictures being transmitted round the world is rather disconcerting.”

Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The shame is not that a bilateral series between the two countries has once again been pushed onto the back-burner.

To be realistic, if the two boards were really intent on continuing relations, they could have easily opted to play in Abu Dhabi (as other cricketing nations have been doing) thus avoiding security concerns and untoward elements in either country.

That is not the nub of the issue.

If you were to read the newspapers and media reactions to Pakistani writers, cricketers and artistes, you would believe that anti-Pakistan sentiments are at an all-time high.

Is that really so?

Isn’t it more likely that certain opportunistic parties have raised the bogeyman once more to gain political mileage and divert attention of the general public from more pressing concerns about governance or rather the lack of it?

The more closely you look at the matter, the more apparent it becomes that having any sort of ties with the ‘enemy’ across the North-West border is a political decision. The mandarins in New Delhi have the final say.

Perhaps, realpolitik dictates otherwise.

For actual progress to occur, a nod must begin from the Prime Minister’s office and then only can the nation rest assured that change is in the air.

A bottom-up push is not the way to build bridges across a diplomatic divide.

That would be a revolution.

Dahi handi now a safer adventure sport

Govinda celebrations during the Krishna Janmaa...

Govinda celebrations during the Krishna Janmaashtami festivities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dahi-handi is now an adventure sport.

What’s new about that, you say?

We all knew it’s dangerous. Only reckless idiots would try to shatter an earthen pot five to six storeys above the ground without a safety net.

That is the point the state government apparently is trying to make.

Celebrations of the birth of the Hindu deity, Krishna, have to be tempered.

School-going children and college youth are not to be made victims of the dangerous stunts pulled by teams in competitions for prizes and money.

The sport will be regulated.

Human pyramids will adhere to strict standards and guidelines.

No kids under 12. Kids aged 12-15 will need their parents’ permission.

The rules apply to every pyramid that has more than four tiers.

The Dahi Handi

The Dahi Handi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Govinda troupes have to register themselves, impart proper training, hold demonstrations and institute certificates and awards.

Medical treatment is to be provided if a participant is injured. Foam mattresses, harnesses, and guards for knees, chest and head are to be put to effective use. And Govindas are  to be insured.

Child dressed up for Janmashtami/Gokulashtami,...

Child dressed up for Janmashtami/Gokulashtami, Krishna’s birthday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: It is an earthen pot.

It is an earthen pot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sport is now permitted throughout the year given its ‘adventure’  status.

The new rules and regulations have dampened many organizers’ enthusiasm.

English: I took this photo myself at Chembur, ...

I took this photo myself at Chembur, this shows boys forming a ladder on top of the pyramid of Govinda and saluting. There is no Dahi Handi. That proves that this sport does not need a Dahi Handi to play it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons is that it is also a religious activity and with the accompanying frenzy that ensues means that mandals  pay scant attention to the organizers and the rules of the game.

The Bombay High Court previously restricted the height of pyramids to 20 feet; this implies that since each layer is about five feet, only four layers are practical under this ruling.

The festival has many competitions happening all over the city and state with prize money running into lakhs of rupees. Bollywood stars are often attractions at these mandals.

English: Dahi Handi Jay Bharat Seva Sangh in 2...

Dahi Handi Jay Bharat Seva Sangh in 2007 @Borivali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mumbai celebrated Janmashtami last Sunday. The number of injuries were drastically reduced this year, falling from 300 to 130. Only 12 were seriously injured compared to 29 last year.

There was only one fatality this year.

From IPL 8 to French Open 2015

IPL 2015 is finished, over, done with. The champions have been crowned. The champions are Mumbai Indians.

Three teams have now won the IPL twice. Chennai Superkings (of course), Kolkata Knightriders and Mumbai Indians. The other winners are Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers (now defunct).

Is Rohit Sharma, on the basis of IPL results, a better skipper than Virat Kohli? Has captaincy led to a new-found maturity in the cavalier—yet immensely talented—Mumbai batter? Is Sharma a better candidate to lead the Indian Test side?

Recall that Saurav Ganguly was appointed skipper only after Sachin Tendulkar refused the crown of thorns for the second (and final) time. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meanwhile, the French Open beckons with a tantalising glimpse of possibly history in the making.

Can Novak Djokovic become only the fourth man in the Open era to claim a career Grand Slam?

For once, Nadal does not ride into Paris as the overwhelming favourite on his favoured surface—clay.

The Mallorcan has feet of (well, you said it, not me) clay.

In the women’s draw, the top two contenders are Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Both have claimed career Grand Slams and Sharapova—interestingly—has two French Open titles; it is her least liked surface.

(My cable operator is not televising the French Open; it is not among the default options offered. So I guess I’ll be following it mainly via the net or the print media.)


Navjot Singh Sidhu: Sachin’s willow not a ‘sudarshan chakra’ (Cartoon)


Googli Hoogli: Muesli, not Boost, is the secret behind Tendulkar’s energy!

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Shane Warne’s ‘breach of IPL contract’ exposed (Satire)

Shane Warne bowling for the Rajasthan Royals a...


That Shane Warne was fined for “a serious breach of his IPL playing contract” is today’s old news.

MakeTimeForSports managed to get the inside story behind the $50,000 fine imposed on the temperamental spinner.

Sources inform us that the contract states that Shane Warne would render services to Rajasthan Royals in his capacity as a cricketer i.e. bowling, batting and fielding.

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What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t: Rohit Sharma

What he said:

“”I don’t want to think too much about that. I am taking one thing at a time. I just want to concentrate on theIPL. I want to win the trophy for Mumbai. By thinking too much you just confuse yourself.”

Rohit Sharma claiming that he is not thinking of an India cap yet.

What he really meant:

“If I play well, then I can expect an India call, but why count my chickens before they’ve hatched? It’ll be like putting the cart before the horse.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I don’t think.”


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