Children’s play has long been considered to have a key role in their well-being and the development of their future life, but a children’s park situated in the heart of Srinagar city, meant for recreation and amusement of children, is putting their lives at greater risks.
Owing to the official indifference the park named ‘Gulshan-e-Atfaal’ meaning ‘Garden for Kids’ just adjacent to Allama Iqbal Park is in essence ‘Danger for Kids’ because the slides and swings here are damaged and corrugated.
In European countries the governments publish safeguarding strategy for children and in this part of the world the governments pride themselves in laying foundation stones, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ishfaq Sheikh, a business from Chadoora, came here with his wife and five-year old daughter, Tooba, thinking that his girl child would entertain herself inside the park for some moments only to return disenchanted.
“Before returning to Chadoora I thought why not make my daughter happy in the park, but it is really sad to return without providing any recreation to her,” Mr. Sheikh said.
Srinagar’s ‘Gulshan-e-Atfaal’ has hardly anything to offer for children’s amusement and entertainment.
The benches here have accumulated rust while the slides and swings are in such a terrible condition that instead of providing any entertainment these can lead to serious injury or even death to a child using them for amusement.
The park is in a shambles.
At the entrance gate the adults, usually the parents, pay fee to get inside the park without getting the receipts, as a matter of routine. Once they enter with an aim to make their children happy they are forced to make a quick exit because of the dilapidated condition of the park.
A spot visit to the park confirms that there is no maintenance and safety plan in place.
Maymoona Jan, a housewife, paid a visit to the park with her eight-year old son Jibran. But she too returned unsatisfied and disappointed.
“I am here with my son, Jibran. I had thought we will have some fun and rest. We can’t even sit on these corroded benches. The grass is wet because of the incessant rain a day before,” she said.
The park was thrown open for public some nine years ago and it appears no one has bothered for maintenance and improving the safety standards since. There are visible wide cracks on sliding surfaces, thereby risking children safety.
As one enters the park, walks a few meters and turns left, a big fracture in the blue-colored 12-feet high slide welcomes you. Any child can easily fall down, hit the ground and receive wounds after sliding on it.
There is no dearth of benches inside the park. But there is dearth of clean and suitable benches.
After the devastating floods of September 2014 the authorities have not even troubled themselves to renovate and maintain the park for children. Only last week the public transport station points were changed in the city. Since then vehicles coming from Nowgam and Kanipora usually stop here just at the main entrance gate of the children’s park. The buses not only act as barricades in front of the park, but also emit enormous pollution.
“Look what has happened to the flowers and plants, they have dried up due to this pollution emanating from vehicles,” said Khalid Bhat, a university student and park visitor.
Director Floriculture, Sunil Mishri, when contacted by Rising Kashmir for his comment on the official apathy he confessed that the park has not been renovated properly.
“We have restored electricity and water and are now in process of restoring the landscape. Very soon we will restore the damaged equipments also,” Mishri said.
Asked why there was no warning system for children in place to keep them away from damaged infrastructure, he said: “I am right now issuing instructions to keep the alert system in the park.”