The Osmania University (OU) in Hyderabad, which is a public-funded institution, has decided to levy an entry fee for walkers using the campus for physical activity from December 1. According to the University, residents from nearby areas who are not part of the campus, will have to pay Rs 200 each per month to access their space. Similarly, outsiders will have to pay Rs 1,000 per month to access the gym; and Rs 500 each per month to access the basketball and football ground. The timings for walking are 6 am to 8 am, and 4 pm to 6 pm.
The varsityâ€™s decision has however irked residents who use the facility regularly. Speaking to TNM, Durga Prasad, a resident of West Marredpally, said, â€śThis is really a bad decision. Why is the administration commercialising the space? Osmania is one of the largest campuses with four grounds that accommodate over 1,000 walkers and joggers daily. People also use the space for their sports practice. This commercialisation is unnecessary. If the city had enough facilities, people would not rely on OU alone. The other closest public ground is Parade Ground, which is mostly occupied by Army personnel for some training. The noise pollution there also prevents me from accessing it.â€ť
Another regular walker, Prabhakar Chouti, said, â€śPeople use the facilities in Osmania University because it is the most accessible one. Of course, regular walkers like me are disappointed with the decision. If Hyderabad had more such large grounds, we will not be using the University premises.â€ť
As the walkers complain, Hyderabad does lack enough public spaces. However, instead of creating more such facilities, the state government was contemplating the construction of a new Secretariat in the Parade Ground near Begumpet, drawing public ire. The plan was later abandoned, as the government demolished the old Secretariat near Hussain Sagar and is constructing a new one in its place.
As per the 2011 census, the population of Hyderabad is 67,31,790. This has increased to 71,70,545 after the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) merged many villages into the city. The GHMC has now increased its area to 922.66 sq km from 635 sq km.
According to a study conducted in 2016, the GHMC has 49 major parks with an area of 266.91 acres. In the study, which was conducted in eight parks including the biggest reserve forest in the city â€” the KBR park, 46% of people who were interviewed said that they come to park due to unavailability of paths for walking in the city.
The study suggested that all people in Hyderabad have a park within at least 1 km of their residence. However, this is far from reality, say environmentalists and activists. "There are no public spaces in Hyderabad. They are shrinking. It's a reality. We need to increase parks," said Kaajal, a city-based environmentalist.
Another cause for worry is the rampant urbanisation of the city. According to a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science in 2016, Hyderabadâ€™s tree cover fell from 2.71% to 1.66% over 20 years. By 2024, it will be 1.84% of the city's area, the study foresaw. The study, which examined the rate of urbanisation in Indian cities, was conducted using satellite borne sensors and by comparing images over decades.
Though a section of people are upset with the university restricting access, OU Vice-Chancellor Professor D Ravinder said, â€śMany people have welcomed the move. There has been no opposition to it. We have already sold 150 passes.â€ť
The move has also been seen as the governmentâ€™s intent to prevent political gatherings in the University. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Telangana state coordinator RS Praveen Kumar on Wednesday, December 1 alleged that the TRS government is restricting entry of outsiders into universities because the BSP has been interacting with the students regarding unemployment and other issues.
â€śIt is very sad that the Telangana government has introduced the entry pass system to all campuses like OU only after we started visiting them to have a deeper understanding of studentsâ€™ problems and unemployment. Neither CM KCR nor his ministers have the courage to face the students,â€ť he said.
The former IPS officer said that his party will end the â€śfascist ruleâ€ť in Telangana and make all campuses sanctuaries of free thinking, he said on Twitter.
1. It is very sad that Telangana Government has introduced the entry pass system to all campuses like OU only after we started visiting them to have deeper understanding of studentsâ€™ problems and unemployment. Neither CM KCR nor his ministers have the courage to face the studentsâ€” Dr. RS Praveen Kumar (@RSPraveenSwaero) December 1, 2021