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Revelling in urban night life

Many cities around the globe claim to be cities that never sleep but the hustle-bustle in most of Indian cities ends when the clock strikes 12. Revival of night life in metro cities is on the agenda of many state governments

Night-time presents challenges and opportunities to cities globally, be it for reasons of safety and fear, lack of destinations or for some attraction. While India houses some of the most populous cities in the world, none  of them can really claim to be a ‘24 hour city’.

In February 2015, Aditya Thackeray proposed to make Mumbai a 24 hour city to generate more revenues for the city and create employment for the youth. He had suggested that all eateries, cafes, milk shops, chemists, theatres, gyms and spas be given the option to stay up all night, especially in non-residential areas. He also proposed to turn certain places like Kala Ghoda or BKC into pedestrian zones post- sunset and thus enable an ambience where jugglers, flame- throwers, food vans, live music (without speakers) and open- air restaurants can operate.

Such an initiative could be a major attraction for citizens and tourists alike in a prosperous metro city like Mumbai and can help generate more revenues from using public places at night. Despite the Mumbai Police Commissioner giving his nod to provide security if such a plan is implemented, the Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to do an impact assessment on women’s safety before implementing any such plan. There is no update on this since then.

Similarly, in Delhi, Kapil Mishra, Tourism Minister of Delhi, said he was in support of restaurants remaining open beyond the current deadline of 1 am. He was responding to recommendations by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) to improve tourism in the capital, which included a revival of the night bazaar in Chandni Chowk. The state government has not taken any step in this regard yet. According to a report by an NGO, Delhi has more than 700 dark spots. That is true for other cities too. Urban lighting at night is a major issue for our cities if they strive to become cities that never sleep.

In many global cities including New York, London, and Amsterdam, a growing percentage of social and economic life takes place in the hours after dark. This can be true for Indian cities too since greater proportions of the population as well as economic activity keeps moving into its cities. Indian cities need to adopt a strategic planning approach with security component and appropriate design for night-time. A holistic approach to urban design, lighting and regeneration planning could helpcreate vibrant, prosperous, safe, and inclusive places for those who live, work and play in cities-at all hours.

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