Finally, Himachal Pradesh govt hands over Annandale ground to Army
Ending the three-decade-long tussle over the historic Annandale ground, the Himachal Pradesh government on Monday gave it to the Army. The previous regime had proposed to take it over for building a multi-crore cricket stadium.
The decision to offer Annandale to the Army came hours after Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, met Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and drew his attention towards an arbitration case pending before Divisional Commissioner, Shimla, over the 'legality' of the Army's claim on the ground.
He reportedly stressed on the 'criticality' of the ground for operations along the northern borders as also for unforeseen disaster relief contingency operations.
Later in the day, the CM summoned records from the DC's office and passed the orders for withdrawal of arbitration proceedings.
"The case stand withdrawn and a status quo has been restored on the ground," a top government official told The Indian Express.
The tussle over Annandale ground — a sprawling green patch in the middle of the town — had reached to a flash point after Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association president Anurag Thakur led a signature campaign seeking transfer of the ground to the local administration. His organisation collected 1.08 lakh signatures and submitted a memorandum to the then CM Prem Kumar Dhumal for taking up the issue with the Defence Minister for transfer of the ground. The argument was that the lease deed of the ground with the Army had expired 30 years ago, but the Army continued to occupy the ground illegally. The HPCA offered to invest Rs 100 crore to build a multi-purpose sports stadium at the site.
Local unit of the CPM started a counter campaign and alleged role of land mafia as people close to the ruling party had brought land in the vicinity of the ground. The Army maintained that the ground was required for carrying out drills for disaster management and highlighted its need for national security