A PIL filed by a group of around 100 swimming enthusiasts before the Bombay High Court has challenged the “exorbitant” increase in the fee of a swimming pool, built by the municipal corporation, in the neighbouring Thane city.
The pool, which conforms to the Olympic standards, was until recently run by Aquatic Recreational Club of Nair, a private entity.
According to the petitioners, until last year the pool management charged an annual fee of Rs 7,500. However, Thane Club, the new management, has now sought to turn the entire premises into a private club, and is demanding a fee of Rs 80,000 for the membership.
The PIL points out that two other swimming pools of the Thane Municipal Corporation in the city charge only about Rs 4,000 as annual subscription, while the Thane Club has increased the fee nearly eight times.
The swimming pool earlier had about 1,500 members, many of them professional swimmers, as well as school children who participate in state-level and national-level competition. However, in November last year the management stopped the renewal of membership at the rates.
The newly introduced exorbitant fee makes it practically impossible for common people to use the pool, which is a property of municipal corporation, the PIL says.
It also alleges that RTI query as to whether the due process was followed in sanctioning the new fee elicited a vague reply from the corporation. Further, during a meeting with the officials of the corporation, it was indicated that they were “under pressure” not to intervene in the issue, the petition says.
The petition, filed by A K Sawant and others, also alleges that the new management has removed the roof of the indoor swimming pool (a separate pool) on the premises, which is meant for women. As a result, this pool is now visible from the premises of the adjoining industrial unit and the women find it uncomfortable to use it. A smaller pool for ‘toddlers’ has been completely dismantled, it adds.
The petition is likely to come up for hearing next month.
Recently, the opposition Congress, NCP and MNS corporators had raised the issue in the corporation’s general meeting (Shiv Sena and BJP control the civic body) and tried to gherao the municipal commissioner, following media reports.
Some swimmers had also carried out a ‘satyagraha’ by entering the premises and using the pool despite the management’s opposition.