Lindsay Pereira: No work and absolutely no play

Published: Nov 25, 2017, 06:11 IST | Lindsay Pereira

It isn't just senior citizens, women or the disabled who are routinely ignored by the BMC. When was the last time it cared for your kids?

Where do your children play? This will sound like a stupid question only to those privileged enough to not have to worry about it. It wasn't an important question when I was growing up. I had a private school ground opposite the building I grew up in, and a park not too far away that was safe enough to grant my mother a few hours of peace on weekends. The question is rather pertinent today though, because I can't, for the life of me, figure out where a large number of children growing up in Bombay now play.

Those lucky enough to live in buildings that have play areas don't count, because they are more the exception than the norm. Where do a majority of children growing up in our overcrowded, space-starved city of encroached structures find a safe area for anything?

Where do a majority of children growing up in our overcrowded, space-starved city of encroached structures find a safe area for anything? Representation pic
Where do a majority of children growing up in our overcrowded, space-starved city of encroached structures find a safe area for anything? Representation pic

Why did the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights have to step in a week ago and ask the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) about how seriously it takes safety at the gardens and parks it supposedly maintains? Why did a child have to die in order for that question to be raised?

A child did die. She reportedly fell off a pony at the Cooperage Garden a few weeks ago, and there have been no answers to questions about why the horses were allowed to give children rides without offering them any protection whatsoever.

The animal's handler blames a crater for the accident, and says there were complaints made about getting it fixed, which were ignored. He was arrested, of course, because people who ought to take the blame for incompetence, indifference and insensitivity are never punished by the BMC.

Take a walk to the public park near­est to you. Look at the facilities offered. Check out the bathrooms, if they exist. Look at the equipment that hundreds of children handle regularly. Ask yourself a few questions about the upkeep of that park, and whether you think a private agency can do a better job. Don't ask yourself what the maintenance of that park costs you, a tax payer, because the answer may depress you.

Consider this: In 2014, the BMC gave its garden department - yes, one exists, apparently - a reported budget provision of R529 crore to develop over 1,000 garden plots across the city and tackle encroachment issues. It allocated Rs 93 crore for the development of five theme gardens.

If you ask me what a theme garden is, I will fail to come up with a response, because that answer lies only with the intelligent men and women who play with our money at the most inefficient organisation on the planet.

That same year, there were reports published on how the BMC had spent R156 crore to renovate the SK Patil Udyan in Charni Road, but couldn't explain why the place was still a complete mess. Much of the garden was still inaccessible to the public at the time, over four years after the renovation project had supposedly begun. When was the last time you visited SK Patil Udyan?

If you do, try and figure out where those crores have been spent, and see if you can justify that amount. Ask yourself why there have been no reports about who was responsible for that expenditure and what the BMC has done in the three years since to ensure our money is being used judiciously.

The BMC has responded to questions raised about its functioning by predictably mentioning other agencies like MHADA. It's interesting how these other agencies always crop up when questions are asked about everything from the state of our roads to the pathetic condition of our public toilets and hospitals.

It doesn't bother these men and women that citizens lose their lives on account of someone's incompetence, and that families are torn apart by accidents that are so often completely avoidable. It is important for us to question the BMC whenever possible, about things it wilfully ignores, and things it ought to consider because that is what it collects our taxes for.

Ask yourself why the parks and gardens in your locality are in the state they are in. Ask yourself why clean bathrooms for children do not exist. Ask yourself why there is absolutely no accountability when it comes to how public spaces are maintained, and why crores spent on gardens every year never actually seem to make these spaces any better. Ask yourself: Where will the children play?

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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