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Open playgrounds would be a boon for children

India’s urban spaces lack playgrounds. And the few that we have, there are no formal norms with regard to running them.

analysis Updated: Jul 27, 2018 10:21 IST
Hoihnu Hauzel
Hoihnu Hauzel
All across the country, the lack of playgrounds -- or their total absence -- has given rise to the mushrooming of indoor air-conditioned play areas, promoted by businessmen with misplaced ethics and sole agendas to make money (PTI)

One of the biggest concerns of urban Indian parents is keeping their children entertained in a safe environment. Every parent dreams of open spaces like a public garden or a park where their children can play. But that’s only a hypothetical proposition given that there is no thought spared for the 0-6 years group of children who constitute 29% of our 1.21 billion population. We don’t have an answer to basic questions like: Where are the parks for the children? Where are the playgrounds? And then, the most urgent question, where is the clean air?

All across the country, the lack of playgrounds has given rise to the mushrooming of indoor air-conditioned play areas, promoted by people whose sole agenda is to make profits. Safety and sanitary norms are not in place. From Surat to Mumbai, Bengaluru to Chennai, Kolkota to Gurugaram, parents are forced to herd their children into these air-conditioned play areas. The convenience of dropping your child off at such swank places that transport them to an instant wonderland come with a premium fee charged by the hour, and with extra cost for snacks. No doubt, it’s a fancy world where kids zipline, bungee jump, go on a mock veggie shopping expedition, jump on bouncy castles and pretend they are climbing mountains. The flip side, of course, is that most of these urban children will never know the joys of playing in open natural spaces under the sky.

Now play dates and birthday bashes are increasingly held at such venues as every requirement for the event is catered to. These have become thriving businesses across the country.

But behind this glitzy world is the danger waiting to happen. As safety rules are blatantly overlooked, there are many ambiguities even when it comes to the maximum number of children that play areas should accommodate at a time. This means greedy promoters can host, for example, private parties while simultaneously allowing children — to pay and play — with little concern for the venue's capacity limits. This is often the case in many play areas in Millennium City (Gurugram). And lack of rules to ensure specified space for running such businesses often means dingy basements are converted into brightly lit play areas with no ventilators or exit routes, except the same narrow staircases that lead to the venue.

Paediatricians fear that such places could be breeding grounds for infection and allergies. And if children are not supervised by trained staff, they could suffer sports injuries. Even the food standard and quality are questionable in most of these places. While there are rules for creche facilities in the country, norms with regard to running play areas are yet to be formalised. If the required space specified for a child in a creche is six to eight square feet to allow the child enough room to play and rest without any disturbances, what should the rule for play areas be? For the sake of India’s young population, it’s about time authorities realise the need for formulating rules for running play areas and giving children their childhood back.

Hoihnu Hauzel is an independent journalist and founder

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 10:21 IST