The road is busy. For Mohan and his friends, it serves as a playground. They assemble here almost every evening to play cricket; the street providing a leveled substitute for a pitch. Roads as playground are hardly an anomaly in India given that the sight is abundantly familiar in most urban localities.
Right to play has been considered in UNCRC (Article 31) as one of the important right for the children. Despite the importance of play on a child’s health, cognitive development, self-esteem and life skills – it remains mostly a ‘forgotten’ right of the child; it is rarely taken seriously by the governments as a result children are unable to fully realize their right to play.
Playing in the open in urban settings continues to remain an elusive experience for many children, courtesy the shrinking spaces and lack of adequate equipment, resources available to them, driving youngsters to the road or other risk prone areas. Be it amongst debris on the fringes of cities and towns, abandoned neighbourhoods, gullies, streets, temples and even railway stations, children satisfy their appetite for play whether or not we provide them that space.
Urban development is progressively changing the landscape of urban childhoods in India. Lack of playgrounds and access to other safe area is indicative of the lack of inclusiveness of children in every sphere of society. And in a country where there are millions of children, the irony of too few places is hardly lost on anyone.
If simply the sight of playing children is so powerful in bringing a smile to our faces, perhaps its time we returned the favour. Let us recognise, respect and promote play as the right of every child.