A group of Kolkatans on Tuesday wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee to keep parks open throughout the day and not restrict the duration to only a few hours every day, as is the norm now.
On Monday, an NGO had written to the chief secretary of Bengal voicing the same demand.
The demand for keeping the parks open from morning to evening, without any break, has now reached the top echelons of the Bengal government.
Parks opened their gates to visitors on Monday after remaining shut for about 20 days, but for a limited duration. Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is keeping its parks open from 6am to 9am, and again from 4pm till 6pm.
The Kolkata Municipal Development Authority (KMDA) is keeping the two parks in its custody — Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar — open from 6am till 9am.
The Telegraph reported on Tuesday that several Kolkatans were demanding that parks be kept open for longer durations every day.
“Extend the reopening to the normal time that parks (especially Rabindra Sarobar) would remain open – through morning, day and evening,” says the letter to the chief minister.
The letter says winter mornings are often smoggy, which makes early morning walks a health risk. “A number of homemakers find walking convenient in the early evening,” the letter says.
Arun Lal, the coach of Bengal men’s cricket team, was one of those who signed the letter to Mamata Banerjee.
“Parks are a source of good mental health. We are not looking at the impact the pandemic has had on the mental well-being of people. I hope there is not a pandemic of mental health followed by this pandemic. I lent my name to the letter because I believe that parks should be thrown open completely,” Lal told The Telegraph.
“We have precious little green space in Kolkata and we should not keep away people from these places. If we are waiting for Covid to disappear, it is not going to happen. We have to now start living with Covid,” Lal said.
Many Kolkatans prefer visiting a park in the evening or in the afternoon, after completing their professional duties and domestic chores.
Vinita Poddar, an interior stylist and a mother of two, used to visit Rabindra Sarobar between 5pm and 6pm. But the park is only opening for three hours in the morning.
“Earlier, I used to take a walk between 5pm and 6pm at Rabindra Sarobar, but I cannot do it now. I tried walking in the lanes around my house but it was not a nice experience. The lanes are undulating and there is a lot of construction,” said the resident of New Alipore.
“I really want all parks to be kept open throughout the day so that I can go back to walking in the afternoon or evening.”
The letter to chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi went from the NGO People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC). Among the reasons for their demand, the letter cites “the need of children to have space to play, social equity (since the poor do not have access to open spaces such as private clubs and personal gardens)”.
PUBLIC has also filed a petition with Calcutta High Court demanding reopening of parks. KMC and KMDA have been made respondents to the petition.
The letter to Dwivedi says: “While the matter is waiting to be heard, may we request you to kindly consider the benefits to the people and direct that all parks be reopened and for hours convenient to the public through the day — subject, of course, to Covid protocol”.