Several senior citizens in Borivali have come together to clean the abandoned Jhansi ki Rani Laxmibai Joggers’ Park in Eksar, a large plot that is
currently covered with debris and rubble. Just a 10-minute drive from Borivali railway station, the joggers’ park is home to a small lake, a jogging track encircling it, and open recreation spaces. The park had been abandoned since last year, as it was caught in a legal tangle related to its maintenance and custody. As a result, the jogging track is covered with debris, while an entrance gate was demolished.
“Early morning, when we go there for a walk and exercise, it looks as if a cannon ball was fired on this park. Neither the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) nor the suburban collector are doing anything to restore it,” said Kanti Gandhi (76), who was a regular at the park. 79-year-old Radhika Prasad said the park was no longer safe for joggers due to the rubble. “We have been visiting since 2009. After the gate was demolished, there was a lot of rubble lying around, which made it difficult for us to jog. It also increases the risk of someone falling down, most of us who come here are old,” she said.
A group of senior citizens had approached the BMC, local politicians and the suburban collector, seeking help. However, these efforts have not produced any results, they said. The group then decided to spend money from their own pockets, and also collect funds, to get the park repaired. The senior citizens formed an informal association and started collecting voluntary donations to hire a sweeper to clean the park on a daily basis.
The park was developed in 2009 by then MLA Gopal Shetty, using his MLA fund, on two adjacent plots. While hearing a PIL filed by Meera Kamath and Edwin Britto in 2009 alleging that the smaller of the two lakes on the site was reclaimed and the other one was reduced in size, the Bombay High Court on March 22, 2017, had directed the state government to take over the land and restore the original area of both lakes.
According to local residents, in February 2017, the park watchman’s cabin, toilet block and children’s amenities were demolished. “Most of us visiting this park are senior citizens and face problems because of the lack of toilets nearby,” said 60-year-old Naresh Khemka.
A senior official from the BMC’s R Central Ward office said they no longer maintain the park. “The High Court has directed the collector’s office and the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority to carry out the demolition and restoration of the lakes. We cannot go against the court’s order,” he said.
One of the petitioners in the case, Meera Kamath, said the reason she had filed the PIL was to protect the two lakes. “I have seen a lack of progress in the restoration process and had approached the collector a month ago. He had then assured me that they are going to hold a meeting regarding the issue. If there is no progress in the case, then it will be contempt of court. I will submit an application on the same,” said Kamath.