The most sought after public garden, the Sarasbaug, where thousands of Puneites throng every day, is a manifestation of all that’s sloppy with the civic authorities that manage it.
On the 1st of January of every year, thousands of families flock to Sarasbaug to pay obeisance to the benevolent deity of Lord Ganesha and relax in its lawns.
This year too, the evening was jam-packed with people, carrying an aura of merriment and hope. I was one of the very many and having visited Sarasbaug, after a long time, found some glaring ugliness that speaks of the inefficiency and callousness of the Municipal Corporation in managing one of the top end and most popular public gardens of Pune.
The first thing that strikes you is the increased number of vendors selling wares, crowded on the steps of the temple, besides other areas. It’s rather upsetting that these vendors encroach upon the steps, thus narrowing space for people to go up to the sanctum sanctorum.
Can’t the PMC and/or the Trust ensure that the temple maintains its sanctity and divinity?
Similarly, hawkers are spread around the main lawns in a haphazard manner, spoiling the beauty of the lawns and the walking areas. Outside this public garden, the ‘Sarasbaug Chowpatty’ is jammed with a whopping 75 food stalls, with questionable food safety and hygiene norms.
The Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), last year, has launched a drive to educate the food stall owners on cleanliness, hygiene, waste water management and hygienic cooking. However, not much has changed.
The expansive lawns are the main attractions as families sit around, picnicking and their children playing. These spaces are so essential to let your hair down and breath fresh air in our city, which is otherwise clogged with vehicular traffic, the moment you step out of your house. Predictably, the lawns are littered with papers after eating groundnuts and bhel which are sold here. No doubt, the people have to blamed for this lack of civic and social sense, but PMC should put up prominent boards about not littering and keep enough waste bins. And by the way, in one of the lawns, we saw many people sitting around. And we went round and round but could not find the entrance. Then we saw that the gate was locked. We asked one of the people, as to how did they get in? He said, by jumping from the fence! So, everyone’s jumping over the fence to get in and the gate is locked! Shocking, isn’t it? Either it is fenced and the gate locked because there is no permission or then the gate should be open if anyway people are allowed to sit in the lawn. So strange!
God knows what the PMC has achieved by putting up fences (not closed ones) around every lawn!
The most stark and ugly sight are the ponds which are filled with stagnant water with a layer of hyacinth. It is surprising that these small water bodies should be in such a pathetic condition.
I had tweeted that while it is right that PMC fines people whose premises have stagnant water which breed dengue mosquitoes, what about its own Sarasbaug which has stagnant water bodies? Is this public garden not a health hazard for the visitors? To which the PMC Care replied, “@VinitaDeshmukh Thank you for sharing your concern. We have taken cognisance of this issue. Your token number is T12033. You can track your complaint status at :http://complaint.punecorporation.org.’’ When I checked the status it says “assigned’’.
What is astounding in this case is that, the PMC has actually outsourced the maintenance of the water bodies in Sarasbaug to a private company!
The company website states: Sarasbaug Pond Ecological Restoration (Garden Department- PMC) (2019). “In stream structures provide breeding spots for fish, landing spots for birds and resting areas for turtles. Objective of these interventions is to improve the ecological diversity and attain nutrient balance in the system. Once the nutrient balance is achieved, growth of invasive species can be restricted/ inhibited. Implementation of such structures also improve aesthetics of the pond.’’ Where are where are the so-called interventions? Is this private entity made accountable or is our tax paying money being frittered away?
The over head walkway is another sad story as it is inaccessible to senior citizens and those with knee or joint pains as the climb is too tough. Hence, only a few young families and youngsters use it.
Sarasbaug has a rich historical heritage as it was built in the Peshwa Period and at that time it only had the temple around which was the lake.
The lake dried out and the public garden was made by the PMC about six decades ago.
Surely, this important public site, should be the ambassador of our Smart City! Agree?
#All views expressed in this article are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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