BMC okays hiked entry fees for viewing penguins

A DAY after the BJP demanded that the proposed entry fee for viewing penguins should be cancelled, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) approved the fees on Saturday. The decision was taken at a group leaders’ meeting, chaired by Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar. According to the BMC, the entry would be free for students of municipal schools, while for private schoolchildren it would be Rs 25. Additionally, for adults, it would be Rs 100. Senior citizens will also be given free entry. It would take at least 15 days to a month for these charges to come into effect.

“In case of adults, free entry will be given to the children accompanying them. Besides, two children accompanying their parents will also be given free entry. It is basically to provide free entry to more children since penguins are popular among them,” said Mahadeshwar. He added that a balance has been maintained, while increasing the entry fee. “While on one side the civic body needs revenue, we have made it free for municipal schoolchildren, senior citizens and children accompanying their parents,” he added.

The civic body has thrown open the penguin enclosure for public viewing at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, also popularly known as Byculla on March 18. The zoo authorities charge a nominal cost of Rs 2 for children and Rs 5 for adults for viewing seven penguins. On Friday, a BJP corporator had written to Mahadeshwar, asking to make the entry fee permanently free, as against the proposed charges. Sangita Gyanmurti Sharma, a BJP corporator from Malad (E), had said, “Children and their parents have been coming in large numbers to see the penguins from Mumbai and across the state. Currently, penguin viewing is free till March 31 and it should be kept free permanently,” she added.

A senior Sena leader said there was no discussion about it in the group leaders’ meeting held on Saturday. However, zoo authorities said group leaders have given a go-ahead to the proposal for increasing the entry fee. “Now, we will move a proposal to the standing committee for its approval. Till then, the existing nominal charges will be continued,” said Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo, adding that it will take a month for the process to complete.

Penguin enclosures have been drawing huge crowd in the Byculla Zoo. While on weekdays the footfalls reach up to 15,000, the number goes up to 35,000 during weekends. Most of the visitors are children, said an official.

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