The Telangana government has now decided to construct the Secretariat in its existing premises at a cost of Rs 400 crore.

How Secunderabad residents fought Telangana CM from taking over two open groundsFile Photo
news Protest Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 17:45

After relentless campaigns by the Resident Welfare Associations of Secunderabad for the past two years against the construction of a new Secretariat building by acquiring 55 acres of Bison Polo Grounds and Gymkhana Ground--a major lung space for the dwellers residing in Secunderabad, the government on Tuesday finally withdrew its decision. The government announced that the new structure would be constructed after razing down the existing structure.

Soon after assuming charge as the first Chief Minister of Telangana in 2014, K Chandrasekhar Rao who unabashedly admits that he’s deeply religious had announced his decision to construct a ‘vaasthu-compliant’ Secretariat by shifting the Chest hospital in Erragadda. However, faced with harsh criticism from Opposition leaders and public outcry, the government withdrew its plans and released a blueprint to construct the Secretariat in Secunderabad by acquiring two grounds--Gymkhana and Bison Polo from the Ministry of Defence in exchange of state government’s land and additional money as compensation.

However, this too was opposed by the residents collectively, who pointed out that the Secretariat in Secunderabad would cause severe problems like choking the traffic, depriving the citizens of one of the largest open grounds and also causing destruction to the environment.

A coordinated peaceful campaign helped the cause

“It was one of the successful campaigns which were conducted peacefully without any conflict with the police,” says Kush Bhandari, one of the activists, who led the ‘Save Bison Polo Grounds’ campaign.

Bhandari says that the support from former bureaucrats, lawyers and other intellectuals who formed the core group of ‘Save Bison Polo Grounds’ had helped them chalk out plans for a sustainable campaign.

“We had written appeals to the Prime Minister, Ministry of Defence. Our campaign got good public support. Although we sought support from political leaders, they weren’t included in our campaign. We approached the Opposition leaders, not because they had to oppose it, but to make them understand that, they shouldn’t repeat the same after coming to power. Our approach of not coming in direct conflict rather making an appeal to the government helped,” he says, adding, “This is not our victory. We just want to thank the Chief Minister for considering our appeal.”

Another activist Gulshan G Bamboat says, “These grounds have been the water harvesting pits which provided groundwater for most of the city; constructing the Secretariat there was a bad decision.”

Gulshan had mobilized several youth to partake in the campaign and also was a crucial member in the signature campaign. “We had a signature campaign, walk protest, and a constant engagement with the authorities from the Ministry of Defence,” she recalls.

What’s the need for a new Secretariat and Assembly?

The government on Tuesday announced their decision to construct a new Assembly and Secretariat while the present structures are intact without offering any reason as to why. This construction would cost the state exchequer Rs 500 crore.

According to the Chief Minister, the new Secretariat would be constructed at the existing premises near Hussain Sagar at an expense of Rs 400 crore, while the Assembly would be constructed at Errum Manzil at an estimated cost of Rs 100 crore.

Activist and academician Professor Padmaja Shaw who was also part of the ‘Save Bison Polo Grounds’ notes, “The state is suffering a major crisis in terms of education and water.” Terming the decision to construct new structures as ‘Vanity affair’, she says, “Education in Telangana is in a bad state. We are just above Bihar in education rankings, rather on focussing on such pertinent issues, the government is making unnecessary expenditure.”

Amused by the government’s decision, Shaw says, “What is the need for a new Assembly and build a replica of the same, when the existing iconic structure is in good condition? We need an amendment on the government’s expenditure.”


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