On Monday, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar raised a pertinent point when he lamented the missing playgrounds in our cities. Even in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, playgrounds are few and far between, but many remain out of bounds for children. Activists allege that civic bodies are busy “clearing files pertaining to construction of buildings”, and barely any attention is paid to the paucity of open spaces and playgrounds.
In Pimpri, children are often seen playing on busy roads outside their residential societies. Not only does this create impediments for the free flow of traffic, even the children are at risk due to the vehicles plying on internal roads.
“I have been staying in Pimpri for more than 20 years. And for all of those 20 years, I have seen children playing on public roads. Several accidents have taken place during this time,” said DG Baliga, a resident of Pimprigaon.
Baliga said there was only one playing ground in Pimprigaon, but most of the time, children were not allowed to play on it. “Children have no option but to use public roads as playgrounds,” he said.
Residents and activists alleged that the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) has allowed construction activity in all open spaces in suburbs that are well-connected. One such suburb is Kasarwadi.
“Kasarwadi does not have a single open space… for four decades, children in Kasarwadi had to make do with the Army ground, where they had to face the ire of Army personnel. Recently, they have started setting up a playground on a road close to Gurav Pimple…,” said Rajendra Shelkhe, the former captain of Kasarwadi Eleven Cricket Club.
The situation is no different in areas such as Phugewadi, Dapodi, Landewadi or Mohan Nagar, where open spaces or playgrounds are difficult to find.
Meanwhile, the grounds at Annasaheb Magar Stadium or Madanlal Dingra remain open only for a couple of hours in the morning and evening. “The Magar stadium remains open from 6 am to 9 am and then from 5 pm to 7 pm. So, children who live in Nehrunagar-Vithalnagar have no option but to play on the roads, where vehicles play at a breakneck speed,” said Deepak Pardeshi, a local resident.
While Indrayani Nagar area does have a sports complex, children have to pay Rs 10 for using the athlete’s track in it. “We also have to spend Rs 40-50 to go all the way to Nehrunagar,” said Rohan, an athlete from Indrayani Nagar.
Not only are playgrounds rare, even adequate sports facilities are not available in any nearby areas. If a child wants to play cricket, he has to go all the way to Wakad. “Children have to spend Rs 100 to Rs 200 per day to reach the Wakad playground, where there is a cricket academy. It is a costly proposition for a middle-class family,” said Ashok Morwal, a resident of Wakad.
PCMC’s sports department in-charge Razzak Pansare, however, claimed there were at least 15 playgrounds in the civic limits. “It is true that all suburbs don’t have playgrounds… but teens are mostly busy on their cellphones and on Facebook,” he said.
Baliga said the right infrastructure should be created to encourage children to play sports. Echoing his view, Morwal said adequate sports facilities should be created in each suburb.
“In every suburb, there are 4,000-5000 children and only one playground, that too without any facilities. How can one playground be sufficient? There should be at least two to three playgrounds in each suburb. The PCMC should stop giving permissions for constructing a concrete jungle and instead give the green signal for more playgrounds,” he said.