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 heâs deeply religious had announced his decision to construct a âvaasthu-compliantâ 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 governmentâs 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
âIt was one of the successful campaigns which were conducted peacefully without any conflict with the police,â says Kush Bhandari, one of the activists, who led the âSave Bison Polo Groundsâ campaign.
Bhandari says that the support from former bureaucrats, lawyers and other intellectuals who formed the core group of âSave Bison Polo Groundsâ had helped them chalk out plans for a sustainable campaign.
âWe had written appeals to the Prime Minister, Ministry of Defence. Our campaign got good public support. Although we sought support from political leaders, they werenât included in our campaign. We approached the Opposition leaders, not because they had to oppose it, but to make them understand that, they shouldnât repeat the same after coming to power. Our approach of not coming in direct conflict rather making an appeal to the government helped,â he says, adding, âThis is not our victory. We just want to thank the Chief Minister for considering our appeal.â
Another activist Gulshan G Bamboat says, âThese grounds have been the water harvesting pits which provided groundwater for most of the city; constructing the Secretariat there was a bad decision.â
Gulshan had mobilized several youth to partake in the campaign and also was a crucial member in the signature campaign. âWe had a signature campaign, walk protest, and a constant engagement with the authorities from the Ministry of Defence,â she recalls.
Whatâs 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 âSave Bison Polo Groundsâ notes, âThe state is suffering a major crisis in terms of education and water.â Terming the decision to construct new structures as âVanity affairâ, she says, âEducation 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.â
Amused by the governmentâs decision, Shaw says, âWhat 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 governmentâs expenditure.â