Picnickers visiting Chennai’s Vandalur zoological park during the year-end were peeved those carrying smartphones were each charged an extra `25 over and above the entry ticket. The zoo management argued that since a fee of `25 was traditionally collected for taking in a still camera, those carrying smartphone, too, should cough up the same amount as the mobiles have an in-built camera. While the authorities were gleeful that their sudden crackdown has led to more cash flowing into the zoo coffers, there were some within the establishment who pointed out that the move had no official sanction from the government. Whatever it is, whoever came up with the novel idea to milk unsuspecting revellers had a flawed notion about the very principle behind charging a fee for still camera in places of recreation.
When someone carries a camera to a picnic spot, he or she has a plan to take photographs. But it need not be the intention of someone carrying a smartphone, whose primary use is communication. Of course, in these days of selfies and instant uploads in social networks, people do tend to shoot pictures with smartphones. But what if someone uses a phone just to keep in touch with others? Besides, a zoo is a place that attracts groups. Normally, before the smartphone revolution, each group would normally carry one camera and one may not feel the pinch of paying `25. But now each may have a smartphone.
So, without really ascertaining the proposed use of a smartphone that has multiple functions on the zoo premises and not offering a safe custody facility at the entrance for those not keen on taking the mobile inside, it is not proper on the part of the authorities to charge visitors. Luckily, it did not strike the authorities that smartphones can record video, too. And, the conventional charge for taking in a video camera is a whopping `150.