What does play look like for kids in urban India? Take a look
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What does play look like for kids in urban India? Take a look

Do we need a Right to Play? We set out with a camera to find out, and what we saw was sad and troubling.

more lifestyle Updated: Feb 11, 2018 18:02 IST
Sachin Tendulkar,Right to Play,Right to Education
MUMBAI: You have to watch how hard you kick the ball, when there’s a chance it could plummet several stories. But the terrace and building lobby are often the only spaces available for play in overcrowded Mumbai. “I get so bored. We just go around passing the ball, or do simple shots. Sometimes we play box cricket in the lobby,” says Atharv Gune, 14. “I love football, but I hate to play it like this.”

Cycling on a terrace; badminton in the building lobby; cricket on the railway tracks.

That last one must really hurt Sachin Tendulkar, legendary batsman and now a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament. Tendulkar recently spoke in the House, asking that the right to play be made a legally mandated component of the Right to Education.

Sports should be considered an essential part of curricula and each person should get the right to play at school, he argued. This would also bring much-needed attention to the lack of open spaces for children.

At the Hindustan Times, we have frequently reported on the abysmal per capita availability of open spaces in metropolitan India. But when we set out to capture how this affected children and playtime, even we were surprised by what we found.

BENGALURU: A game of badminton typically needs racquets, shuttlecock, net and court. But for these kids in CV Raman Nagar, the lack of a playground means they must play the game in the lobby of their building. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

Against the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 9 sq metres per person and a developed world standard of 20 sq metres, Mumbai has 0.88 sq metres, and even green Bengaluru has only 6.4.

And this includes ‘playgrounds’ that are used as dumping grounds for garbage; maidans encroached upon by slums; and built-up public spaces like clubs and gymkhanas where only the few can play.

“Lately, even in housing societies with open space, much of the open ground is covered in concrete and reserved for parking,” says Rita Panicker, CEO of Butteflies, a New Delhi-based NGO that has been campaigning for the right to play since 2010.

Open spaces are not a luxury, they’re a necessity, says Naina Kathpalia of the Mumbai-based NGO Citispace. “Land in Mumbai comes at a premium. Politicians, builders… they’re all eyeing it. So any free land ends up ‘developed’. Why do we need theme parks? What we need are open maidan, walking tracks, a few benches – that’s it.”

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 16:51 IST