Building all-night cities can make them women friendly
Recently, the Haryana government announced that pubs and bars could stay open till 3am in cities in the national capital region, including Gurugram and Faridabad. In a similar move, the Maharashtra cabinet last month approved a plan to allow Mumbai malls, restaurants and multiplexes to stay open round-the-clock from January 27 on a pilot basis. Liquor, though, would continue to be served only till 1:30am.
Let us ponder over the implications of these two separate announcements by the respective state governments. Haryana has changed its excise policy in order to increase revenue for the state. Maharashtra, on the other hand, has allowed shops, malls and cinemas to remain open 24x7 not only to generate more revenue, but to create jobs and be in line with Mumbai that is a 24x7 functional city.
The logic behind the two moves is different and the impact will be quite diverse. Extending drinking hours in a city where the streets are already unsafe and largely deserted after dark is hardly going to encourage more people to use the city. On the contrary, it could, in some cases, lead to more problems such as drunk driving, road accidents and sexual assaults on women.
On the other hand, keeping malls and shops open will encourage all kinds of people to be out and enjoy the city. People can go out for a late show, hang around a mall, sit at a restaurant or walk around the streets as there will be more people around. Interestingly, in Maharashtra, the excise rules have not been changed, and bars and pubs will continue to serve liquor only till 1:30am.
It is a great idea to make Indian cities open all night or till late at night. In summer, especially, it is too hot to wander around during the day and the idea of a 24-hour city is an innovative one. But it must be planned and executed with care to keep it safe and inclusive for everyone. It would be wonderful for both residents and tourists.
This is not a new idea. In 1989, Helsinki’s first Night of the Arts was conceived as a novel effort to take art out of the daytime gallery or museum and into the outdoor world of the city at night. Thirty years later, many cities participate in the global proliferation of night-time events.
Buenos Aires in Argentina has a festival called “Museums Night” where more than 280 cultural spaces are kept open till 3am and people can visit them for free. The entire city is turned into an inclusive cultural space. Further, public transport is provided for free during that night to ensure safe mobility. More than a million people participate in this every year.
The city after dark has always been less accessible to women and any initiative to keep it open at night must ensure that it is encouraging to all. Extending the hours of public transport and making sure it is safe is one crucial measure that will make the city accessible to all. More Indian cities should be activated at night, and they should plan collective activities and encourage local communities to be involved. The aim should be to get more people engaged and be women friendly.