KCR’s secretariat plans draw all-round flak

Hyderabad, Sep 10: TRS government may not have faced any major public discontent over any issue during last three years but its decision to build new secretariat in Bison Polo and Gymkhana Grounds in Secunderabad has certainly triggered a huge row.

The opposition parties, concerned citizens, environmentalists, activists and sports persons all are strongly opposing the government’s plans as this will destroy the lung space and a cultural symbol of this historic city.

Following request from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, the Centre has agreed to handover the Bison Polo Ground, which was with the defence ministry, to the state government.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao plans to build new Secretariat, Assembly and Kala Bharati buildings over 33 acres of Bison Polo Ground and 22 acres of Gymkhana Ground.

His plans are facing strong resistance from the opposition parties, barring BJP which is finding it difficult to defend the Centre’s move to handover Bison Polo Ground.

“There is no need to construct a new Secretariat as the present one is housed in a spacious compound,” said BJP state unit chief K Laxman. He, however, had no answer as to why the central government led by BJP handed over the land.

Main opposition Congress party has launched an attack on KCR for wasting public money. State Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy questioned the need for a new Secretariat when the existing complex was spacious. He pointed out that Assembly is also located in a huge building while for cultural activities, the city has key venues like Ravindra Bharati and Hari Hara Kala Bhavan.

TRS is defending its decision to build Vaastu compliant buildings to reflect the cultural identity of Telangana and considers the plan a part of ‘Bangaru Telangana’.

Like on various other issues, TRS is countering the opposition parties by alleging that they are creating hurdles in the efforts by the government to create ‘Bangaru Telangana’.

The opposition parties received shot in the arm as several prominent citizens including a former DGP and a former cricketer challenged the government’s move.

Former DGP M V Bhaskara Rao, cricketer Vivek Jaisimha, war veteran and squadron leader Anil Bhalla and chartered accountant Turlapati Bharadwaj filed petitions in the High Court urging it to prevail upon the TRS government not to ‘gobble up’ the only lung space that Secunderabad has.

Bhaskar Rao argues that like the Ramleela Grounds and Rajpath in Delhi, Bison Polo and Gymkhana Grounds hold the same importance for Hyderabad and called for protecting the grounds in view of their historical and cultural importance.

The petitioners charged the state with doing all this due to unscientific Vaastu beliefs.They also found fault with the central government and its defence ministry for giving in principle approval to the state in this matter.

They recalled that right from the British era, the twin grounds were used as military sports and training grounds and venue for international cricket tournaments.

The petitioners submitted that all other major cities have historical landmarks and venues whose preservation is not only vital from an aesthetic angle but also due to environment and security dimensions.

This is one of the most controversial decisions taken by KCR in three years. He earlier had to drop similar plans due to stiff opposition from various groups.

KCR had initially planned to build the secretariat, assembly, council and quarters for All India Service officers on 70 acre premises of Chest Hospital at Erragadda. He wanted to shift the hospital to TB Sanatorium in Vikarabad. Since Chest Hospital building is of heritage value, his plan evoked strong criticism from activists, forcing him to abandon the plans.

Last year, he had also mooted the idea of taking over secretariat buildings vacated by Andhra Pradesh government, demolishing the existing structures to build a 10-storey integrated building with plenty of parking space. He later dropped the plans.

The other controversial decisions of KCR included demolishing some of the structures of Osmania General Hospital. As the buildings are of heritage value, his plans drew criticism from the activists.

Another decision which KCR had to withdraw was to empty Hussain Sagar, clean it and fill it with water. The experts had questioned the feasibility of the plan.

KCR also had attracted criticism for building a new camp office or his official residence besides the existing one. The opposition targeted him for wasting huge public money.

This time, TRS government will have to face not just the opposition parties but several groups and prominent individuals concerned about the identity of the city.

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