India’s gated townships can induce psychological barriers (Feature)

August 4th, 2008 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anuradha Shukla
New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) A two-hour flight from Pune to Delhi was a huge leap for 14-year-old Ritabh. It meant leaving his luxurious abode at Magarpatta city, a gated township on the outskirts of Pune, to go and live in a regular residential area in the Indian capital. The transition was not easy for Ritabh who found everything about this city problematic, right from his neighbourhood to the slums in the corner of his neighbourhood.

“I don’t like this city, with so much noise and pollution. The roads are bad and the parks dirty. I don’t like the ragpickers and the vendors who shout at the top of their voice. And the slum in the corner of my neighbourhood is so downmarket,” said Ritabh.

The list of complaints was just too long. The situation became so aggravated that his parents had to see a psychologist.

Ritabh is not a case in isolation. There are many such children staying in secure, gated abodes who find it difficult to cope with the world outside.

A gated township is essentially a self-contained town with schools, restaurants and malls. Normally it is developed as a satellite town with restricted entry and exit points which are guarded by huge security arrangements and have little pollution, noise or traffic congestion.

With luxurious housing, large green spaces, free of pollution and traffic congestion and school and market places at a walking distance, gated townships are becoming a rage as they offer exclusivity for residents. Malibu Towne in the IT hub of Gurgaon is one such. Round-the-clock security and limited access to entry make it the preferred choice of many. On an average populated by 50-150 families, mostly made up of corporates and retired bureaucrats, some of these areas even boast of golf courses.

No wonder most developers in the country are cashing in on the demand for secure and self-sustained abodes and are coming up with such townships, mostly in the outskirts of metros, which cater largely to the high-end housing segment.

However, psychologists feel these ‘private, gated cities’ are fraught with negative psychological consequences.

According to Sameer Parekh, a psychologist at Max Healthcare, “Staying among a closed social group increases the sense of social segregation.

“Children staying in a community built with the same socio-economic class tend to become comfortable with people similar to them and less tolerant of the world outside their closed gates.

“That is the reason we advocate the inclusion of more socio-economic classes in schools, so that children have better social interaction and tolerance,” he said.

Monika Chhib, another psychologist who works at Apollo Hospitals, agreed. “In such localities, children have less interaction with the outside world which is in stark contrast with their gated abodes.”

“It is just a matter of lack of social interaction at a wider level.”

That is the reason why some parents are opting to come out of such communities so that their children can have better social interaction.

“These townships offer an escape from the pollution and traffic of overcrowded metros but eventually they also shut out the bleaker realities of other part of India, which is not so pollution free, not so secure and also includes slums,” said Arindham Majumdar, a senior executive.

He recently moved out of such a township in Bangalore for the sake of his children.

“The facilities were really good, and my friends thought it to be a bad choice to move out. But I didn’t want my children to grow up as social snobs and intolerant lots.”

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