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Preserve open spaces for children

Today, on Children’s Day, all the appropriate noises have been made about how we are going to mark this day. There are events planned across the city — from wall paintings to cooking contests for kids — and schools no doubt will do something to make students feel extra special today.

All the events are welcome and are an indicator that children today have more avenues than previous generations ever did. There are great opportunities for careers within the educational sphere itself. Of course, sometimes, this complex maze of choices is difficult to negotiate, but by and large, youngsters are quite sure of what they want and confident in their choices by the time they reach a certain age. Variety is a good thing, in this context.

What we can do here in Mumbai then, is to give our children the gift of freedom, in a physical sense. In a city bursting at its seams, let us try our utmost to preserve the few open spaces that we have, if not for ourselves at least for our children. Today, Mumbai’s children play in handkerchief-sized spaces that pass off as playgrounds. Many schools do not have a playground at all, buildings have parking spaces where children play in between cars, and in the little space they have. Not just activists and environmentalists, everybody should do what they can to save that open space from slipping away.

Maybe clubs across the city, with their exorbitant membership fees, can keep an hour or two in a week for non-members’ children to use some sporting facilities. While one understands that club infrastructure is stretched beyond limits, maybe a lean attendance day, like a weekday is a good time to open facilities for outsiders’ children for a nominal fee.

The few parks and recreational facilities must be child- friendly. Too often we see playgrounds where slides are broken and rusty, swings have loose chains and other playing paraphernalia are in a dangerous, dilapidated condition. Open grounds are great equalisers for children, with all classes allowed to access them. So, this ‘Bal Divas,’ let’s give our children the thing they need the most in this city — a space of their own.
 

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