Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No longer a walk in the park

No longer a walk in the park
Soon, Walkers And Joggers Who Want To Enter Lalbagh Must Carry An ID Card

Bangalore: The horticulture department at Lalbagh will begin issue of applications for identity cards for morning and evening walkers and joggers in 7 to 10 days. The ID cards for Lalbagh will have to be produced by walkers and joggers between 6 am to 9 am as well as 5 pm to 7 pm. Entry will not be permitted in those hours without ID card.
The implementation of the timings at Cubbon Park will be taken up only after gates, fencing and grills are fixed around the park. An initial set of 10,000 applications will be issued and depending on the response more will be issued. These will be handed out at the horticultural office inside Lalbagh initially, officials told TOI.
Walkers and joggers will have to bring three to four photographs and ID proof like voter ID card, ration card or passport that will also be proof of residential address. They’ll have to fill in their age and as well as whether they are morning or evening walkers and joggers or both to enable better regulation.
While the application forms will be issued in 10 days, the issue of ID card after processing will take about a month. The fee for the ID card has not yet been fixed and discussions are on as to how much is appropriate.
Visitors can enter Lalbagh between 9 am and 5 pm and need not produce ID cards in this period. They have to pay Rs 10 as entry fee. General visitors will not, as of now, be permitted along with morning and evening walkers and joggers if they don’t have ID cards.
“The decision to have ID cards for walkers and joggers is primarily because of safety. The police asked us to ensure people are safe in the garden through the day and especially during morning and evening hours. For that, we need to know who is coming in and going out. Regulation and ID cards will enable us to have proper identification and a head count of people entering Lalbagh,” senior officials said.
“The issue of safety has come up due to two factors — the bomb attack at Lumbini Gardens in Hyderabad and a recent murder in Lalbagh. We also have to ensure the safety of foreigners who visit the garden,” officials added.
Horticulture officials said no decision had been taken on ID cards for tourists who may want to visit Lalbagh in the morning and evening during the fixed hours. “We’ll discuss the issue and work out a proper system. As of now, they can visit the park between 9 am and 5 pm,” they said.
Lalbagh, which falls under Siddapura police station limits, has a police outpost attached to it. It is manned by an ASI and four more personnel. Even Cubbon Park falls under Cubbon Park police station limits. Beat constables are frequently sent to check these parks
The government will enforce timings for Cubbon Park only after iron grills, fencing and gates are constructed all around the park. “This may take at least a couple of months. Only after fencing is completed will we begin implementation of timings. Until then, the situation will be as it is now,” horticulture department officials said ‘Why pay to breathe fresh air?’
The entire issue seems simple yet strange. We’ve been unable to take a clear stand on it due to the mixed response — some say paying Rs 200 is no big deal while others say why pay to breathe fresh air. This is a futile exercise as it serves no purpose. Having an ID card on you is always good. It helps in easy identification in emergencies. However, don’t think it will generate enough revenue to beef up security. Maintaining public parks needs much more funding. More than that, it needs regular screening and implementation.
During our walkers’ meeting, we agreed in principle on ID cards — we only differed on entry fee. Theoretically, ID card sounds good and necessary. However, the reason cited for the card is security. But, I feel, an ID card cannot be the answer, considering even passports are not always genuine.
Further, there are practical problems: i) If I don’t have the card with me one day, will they prevent me from entering? If they do, it’s not right as the park is a public space and as a member of the public, I have the right to be there.
If a family member or visitor wants to come with me and has no ID card, what’s the way out? The freedom of entry to the park should not be curtailed or restricted by the ID card.


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