Mumbai Port Trust garden refuses entry to couples violating social distancing norms
Munaf Kapadia of The Bohri Kitchen says security guard at Colaba's BPT garden refused to let him and his wife enter, saying there was a 'no couples rule', management says it's to ensure social distancing
Colaba resident Munaf Kapadia, founder and CEO of The Bohri Kitchen, and his wife encountered a strange situation earlier this week when they went to the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) Garden—a spot they have been frequenting for the last decade. After buying their entry tickets, costing R5 each, a security guard stopped them from entering.
The incident occurred on August 4 at around 6 pm. "My parents have been going to this garden for a long time as well, and my wife and I both agree that BPT garden is by far the best in the neighbourhood," Kapadia told mid-day. "When I asked the guard why he could not let us enter, and also pointed out that there were people walking and sitting inside, he first said that those were BPT members that he recognised. His responses kept getting more vague. By this time, we [his wife and him] were curious as to why we were not being allowed to enter. It felt like a weird form of discrimination."
After offering more excuses, the security guard finally said that he was under instructions from the management to not allow any couples inside. "It took me five minutes to digest what he was telling us," said Kapadia. "We asked him to call his superior since we thought there must have been some sort of miscommunication about this arbitrary rule. We also informed the guards that we were married and laughed as we explained that we had been frequent visitors to the park for years." Kapadia was also quick to notice that there wasn't any notice put up in and around the garden premises for this "rule". "I tried to explain that if there is a rule to prevent someone from entering a public garden, there has got to be notice or a letter put up for the same," he said. "I called up our local corporator Makarand Narwekar and asked him if he was aware of any such rule at BPT Garden, to which he said there was no such rule. He then sent two officials to sort the issue out and we were finally allowed to enter."
On Saturday afternoon, Vijay Kalantri, President of the All India Association of Industries, reached out to Kapadia and apologised for the confusion. "The management reached out to me and apologised for what appears to be a badly executed, but well-intentioned, policy," Kapadia said.
Kalantri explained to mid-day that there have been incidents of "notorious couples" coming to the garden and sitting on park benches at the back—without maintaining social distancing. "You cannot do this during a pandemic. Because we don't want to ruin the reputation of the garden, we want to avoid such incidents."
When asked how did security guards identify who was a "ruffian" or a "notorious couple," he said that they are easily identified by their appearance. When asked if there was a notice preventing couples from sitting on some the benches, he replied in the negative.
"Our security guards tell couples who are sitting on corner benches, to not do so. We allow anyone and everyone to sit on the benches located at the front of the garden… senior citizens come here and sit after their walks."
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