A citizens' group is collecting signatures to protest the proposed 20-fold hike in the entry fee at the Jijamata Udyan, also known as Rani Bagh, a report in this paper said yesterday. The group is claiming that with the hike, the entire garden becomes inaccessible to the poor.
The civic authorities have mooted a proposal for the entry fee for Rani Bagh to be raised from Rs 2 to Rs 25 per person for children and from Rs 5 to Rs 100 for adults. We are against such a jump in entry fees. The Rani Bagh is Mumbai's largest green public space with a 53-acre garden and zoo. By hiking fees to such an extent, the authorities are not just cutting off the public from the zoo but also from accessing the open garden space.
Hikes should always be staggered so that they do not pinch people. This kind of jump is unthinkable. If the civic authorities thought a fee hike is in order, doubling the amount from Rs 5 to Rs 10 is acceptable, but hitting people with a 20-fold hike is unacceptable. The zoo should have factored the cost of bringing and keeping the Humboldt penguins over here, instead of transferring the costs to the people. Besides the penguin enclosure, which is a novelty, the zoo is bereft of most animals, so a hike in fees is all the more ridiculous.
If the zoo was struggling with maintenance costs for the penguins, they could have looked for corporate help or another way to offset these expenses. The zoo needs to bring back so many animals that have been taken out for different reasons. The facilities within the zoo, like water fountains and toilets could also use a facelift.
Rani Bagh is a place where the common man can take his family without burning a hole in the pocket. Let us ensure it stays that way. A reasonable, small hike may be justified, given the inflation and expenses, but one that spells doors shut for an entire section of people is certainly not justified.
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