Nearly 100 Mumbai students were in for a nasty shock when they arrived at Panchgani for a private 21-day 'commando' training camp. The camp promised to teach them survival skills, but the children had no idea how far the organisers would take it. Inept organisation, false advertisement claims, inhumane living conditions and downright mental and physical trauma quickly crushed the kids' spirit, some of whom reportedly contemplated suicide, just to escape the torment.
It was only when three participants managed to make a quick call to their parents that the truth was disclosed. A front-page report in this paper yesterday stated each participant had paid upwards of Rs 18,000, but were subjected to great torment. They were given no food on the long 12-hour journey to Panchgani, and when they arrived there, they found someone had defecated in the bathroom and were asked to clean it themselves.
One has to be wary of the profusion of camps that crop up every year, during summer vacations. Parents mean well while signing their kids up for these camps, in the hope that their children will pick up certain skills, or learn life-changing lessons. But many times, these camps make claims that are exaggerated or downright false. It is better to first do a background check, if possible, before sending your child there. In this instance, the adverts claimed it was a commando camp, but parents should have checked whether the organisers had any commando or defence experience at all. An in-depth chat with organisers, and maybe checking with past participants, would have helped in some way.
For some parents, holidays are a time to keep the kids frantically busy so that they do not waste time or are not bored out of their wits at home. This means engaging them in any activity that looks remotely interesting. While one cannot blame the parents entirely, a little more scrutiny into claims and credentials is required for all such summer activities.