The last thing V.C. Adarsha expected from a visit to the playground was the death of his beloved two-year old son Diganth. The toddler was killed in a Jalahalli playground when a bench collapsed on him.
Mr. Adarsha has filed a police complaint against the Bruhat Banagalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). However, the concrete bench, in a poorly maintained park, is just one among the many safety-compromised civic amenities in the city. In fact, it has come to symbolise a pressing issue of the city - that of child-unfriendly amenities and in general a lack of focus towards child safety.
BBMP Commissioner Bharatlal Meena, who has termed the accident “unfortunate”, is still awaiting reports from his engineers to ascertain what really happened. “We will issue more guidelines for the safety of children,” he said.
Recently the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) conducted a survey of over 4,000 children between 13 and 15 years in both government and private schools across the city, asking them how child-friendly the city was. Students from government schools accounted for 44 per cent of those surveyed. Close to 66 per cent of the children said they felt unsafe going out by themselves in the city. Not a surprising finding considering that roads, with traffic and ongoing construction projects, have become scary places for children to be on.
On the Old Madras Road near Ulsoor, for example, there is hardly any concern for traffic rules and signals because the Namma Metro construction has created a huge crunch for space.
For the students of schools from adjoining areas such as Cambridge Layout, crossing the road is a daily nightmare as they navigate between reckless motorists and broken pavements. Midway across the road, they must stand with their bag-laden backs close to the barricades, waiting for traffic to relent before they can hurry to the other side.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Praveen Sood says that they are trying to address most problems of this nature through special programmes on traffic awareness and pamphlets in schools and colleges.
“We have distributed over 1.5 lakh books to children about this traffic awareness, and DVDs with 10 films about safety,” he says.
Crimes against children
The CMCA survey also revealed that the incidence of violence against children, starting with the home, plays a crucial role in children’s fears and insecurities. Some 27 per cent of students reported being beaten at home, and 51 per cent said they were being beaten at school.
Basavaraj of the Children’s Welfare Committee and the Bangalore Children’s Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO) says that over the past two years the number of children that have come in conflict with the law, and those who need “care and protection” has doubled in the areas that BOSCO operates, which is Bangalore West and South Divisions.
Between November 2008 and May 2009, about 601 children were contacted by BOSCO, 229 of whom came in conflict with the law and 372 need care and protection. “Often children who come in conflict with the law commit petty crimes because of circumstances,” he adds.
As yet another Children’s Day approaches, maybe it is time that we begin to examine more closely how children across classes are treated in day-to-day life, and implement more child-inclusive norms for their welfare.