Friday, December 18, 2009

THESE ARE FOR KIDS

THESE ARE FOR KIDS
Snakes Slithering Around, Overgrown Parthenium... Mini Bal Bhavans Are In Bad Shape
Nirmala M Nagaraj | TNN

Bangalore: Snakes slithering around, play equipment strewn all over, overgrown parthenium... that’s the state of Mini Bal Bhavans in the city.
In a city where children have hardly any place to play, the Mini Bal Bhavans originally conceived as children’s spaces are in sad shape. Quite unsurprisingly, even children who stay in their vicinity are not aware of their existence. What’s worse, without membership, children cannot even enter these places.
There are four Mini Bal Bhavans at Jayanagar, Jeevan Bima Nagar, Coles Park and Rajajinagar and managed by the women and child welfare department.
Jeevan Bima Nagar
There’s no proper compound and no wonder then that the campus is full of litter. Stray cattle are often found roaming around. The amusement games have been dismantled and dumped under a tree. The building stands amid all this mess. For the past five years, the building has been used by the Parents Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Associated Disorders as a respite daycare centre. Now, they’ve been asked to vacate the place.
The Association president Asha Jhunjhunwala told TOI: “When we took over the place in 2004, the building was dilapidated. There was no fencing, proper roof or toilet. We spent Rs 5 lakh to renovate it. But since 2008, there’s been pressure from the department to vacate it. They rented the place to a commercial firm to start an amusement park, which is unethical. For the past two years, we’ve been fighting for this place and pressure is increasing from Bal Bhavan Society. We had four rooms earlier; now we’ve two.’’
Jayanagar
The dilapidated building in Jayanagar 7th Block is something children dread to enter because it resembles a haunted house. “They used to conduct summer camps here. There was a playhome too, which was not maintained well. Now, they have painted it and put some games. But, soon entry will be restricted as the gates will be locked,” said 12-year-old Durgesh who misses playing there.
Coles Park
The centre runs a drawing class for children with monthly fees of Rs 200. When these classes are not held, the place is rented out for birthday parties as well as corporate and public functions. Training for women in embroidery and mehendi application are also conducted here. Children seem to get a raw deal here.
Gayatri Devi Park
This was limited to public functions and summer camps. For the past six months, there’s been a series of activities. From 5 am to 7 am, there’s yoga for kids and adults and there’s playhome and creche facilities. Other activities like drawing and dance are conducted in the evening. Interestingly, near the playhome is a board which reads ‘Entry only for children with disabilities’. But, as this park is locked and used only during functions for the disabled, this space is used by the playhome kids. “The park is always locked and we don’t find disabled children using it. So we use the the place for our kids with BBMP’s nod,” said the staff.
MINISTERSPEAK
We called for a tender in December 2007 and the contract was given to M R Enterprises. As per the tender notice, it’s supposed to conduct extra-curricular activities and set up an amusement park for children. At the Bal Bhavan too, there are charges for certain games, But they can’t restrict entry to children. P M Narendraswamy | MINISTER FOR WOMEN AND CHILD WELFARE DEPARTMENT
Why Mini Bal Bhavans?
The primary purpose of setting up the Bal Bhavan Society was to create a free space for nurturing the creative talent of children. For providing them free accessible space for playing, recreation and entertainment. In fact, in the main Bal Bhavan, we have a category reserved for children between 3 years and 6 years to develop their motor skills. — Suchitra Rao | STATE COORDINATOR, UNICEF
Child Commission fumes
These Mini Bal Bhavans are spaces for children and should be made accessible to them. When the society can maintain the Bal Bhavan in Cubbon Park, they can ensure the same in these parks too. The Commission has also visited some of these parks. They are not maintained and were restricted to summer camps. Now, we heard that the place has been rented out to a private firm. We have asked the Bal Bhavan Society to submit the details and awaiting their reply. Nina Nayak | CHAIRPERSON, KARNATAKA STATE COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF CHILD RIGHTS
PRIVATE DEVELOPER
All the four Bal Bhavans are now run by a private company, M R Enterprises. Its CEO G L Mahesh says, “We have been granted a five-year contract by the Bal Bhavan Society. For several years, these Bal Bhavans were not in use and parthenium plants had overgrown most places. Now, we’ll develop these places on the lines of Bal Bhavan in Cubbon Park, but only children registered as members with us can use the mini Bal Bhavan. The registration fee is nominal and we’ll issue identity cards to children.”

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