Annandale ground to remain with army: Virbhadra

Shimla, Nov 23 (IANS) The status quo over Shimla’s Annandale ground, the picturesque flat highland, will continue with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday saying it would stay with the army – as it has since 1941.

He said the Annandale ground, in the army’s possession from when World War II was raging, would remain in its possession as this is the only place in the town that is open and suitable for strategic purposes and for conducting disaster relief exercises.

Speaking at a Civil Military Liaison Conference held at Western Command headquarters in Chandimandir near Chandigarh, he said national security cannot be ignored for ‘game and gimmicks’ as the proposal for the cricket ground and stadium there would destroy the greenery.

“The ground was handed over to the army after World War II keeping in view its strategic importance and I am of the firm opinion that it would remain with the army for operational purposes.”

“We are committed to security of the country and I well realise the importance of the ground on account of defence services and for the very purpose it was handed over to the army for the sake of the nation,” the Chief Minister said.

He said many futile attempts were made to take over the ground in the past.

“I want to make it a point that though the governments keep on changing, the possession of the Annandale ground should always be with the army for proper management and for ensuring that no tall concrete structures come up in the vicinity of the ground,” he said.

The 121-bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) flat highland ringed by dense groves, just three km from Shimla’s Ridge, was a bone of contention between the previous Prem Kumar Dhumal-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the army.

The government had initiated the move to take over its control and hand it to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), headed by Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP and Dhumal’s son, for constructing a cricket stadium there.