New Delhi: New Delhi Municipal Council’s Palika multi-purpose gymnasium at Laxmi Bai Nagar, meant to be developed into a world-class sports academy, is in ruins. In May this year, a request for proposal was raised for bidders to invest in building state-of-the-art badminton, basketball and tennis courts. The proposed academy was to provide world-class coaching programmes in table tennis, lawn tennis and basketball, and run free defence classes for girl students of NDMC schools.

On June 29, the request for proposal was called off, even though pre-bid meetings had been conducted. The gym, which is located amid central government officers’ flats, currently has around 500 members. Though it has the luxury of space, the management feels it is underutilised. It houses two separate gyms for men and women, a squash court, a pool room, a billiards room, a table tennis room and a yoga room. The equipment, however, is broken, worn out and not maintained.

The gym’s backyard is a sore sight. The badminton court is lying unused while the tennis court has been converted into a nursery and houses dozens of pots and plants. The basketball ring, too, is rusted. The sprawling empty space has become a dumpyard for residents of Pillanji as those living in the adjoining buildings often dump waste directly onto one of the courts.

Digvijay Singh Tyagi, gym in-charge and promoter of sports for NDMC, says such facilities should be run by people who understand sports. “While any problems have to be reported to the welfare department manager, maintenance of the gym has been handed over to the civil department. I have suggested what equipment to buy and from which company. These facilities should be run by private companies who know sports. We need fitness freaks here who know what we do,” says the boxer.

The highlight of the gymnasium premises is what appears to be the remains of burnt four-wheelers. “An impending Modi visit to its site led NDMC officials to dump some gutted vehicles here,” says Mohammed Ahmed, game attendant at the gym.

The facility was inaugurated in early 2013 at a cost of Rs 2 crore-according to conservative estimates-and the space behind the gymnasium has been languishing in neglect ever since.

“We have dead courts. NDMC decided to make it a nursery. A volleyball court can be made on that drain. One can even play lawn tennis here if the place is developed,” points out a sports attendant, Arvind Kumar.

NDMC charges Rs 1,200 for membership while people living in areas under NDMC have to pay Rs 1,000. There is also a non-refundable registration fee of Rs 500.

Pointing to a small board in the pool room, Kumar shows a torn green mat that covers its surface. “It is difficult to judge a shot or a player’s performance because the speed of the ball is affected due to the board’s surface. The sticks used for billiards come with a top. We don’t have any sticks at all. They are all broken,” he says pointing out to a bunch of billiard sticks and the broken tops. “We don’t even have enough stick chalks”.

The duo went on to point out the condition of the squash court with visible cracks on the main wall, unpolished wooden surfaces and gaps between the wall and the surface. “The table tennis table is made of single plywood. Look at the chipped ends,” Arvind points out. “The table’s surface is so worn out that it bounces anywhere. The balls hit the walls and break,” he continues.

“Pool, TT and snookers are high society sports and equipment is high-maintenance,” Ahmed points out. NDMC, despite being a cash-rich body, wasn’t doing the needful. The employees draw parallels between NDMC’s other sports facilities-a gymnasium in Kakanagar and the Palika Services Officers’ Institute (PSIO) in Chanakyapuri. The Laxmi Bai Nagar gymnasium pales in their comparison.

Anil Kumar, game attendant at the gym, shows treadmills with broken belts, damaged cross-trainers, abdominal boards, cycles, four stations, six stations and eight stations, leg curls with dismantled seats and damaged leg extensions. “We don’t have a stepper, we’ve placed stones instead,” he says. “This property is much better than PSIO’s but they have better services,” added Tyagi.

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Source: TOI-Delhi