Chennai railway stations far from safe for commuters

Updates from :  the Hindu :

Three years after Swathi’s murder, several security measures remain on paper

Three years ago, S. Swathi, a 24-year-old techie, was brutally murdered at the Nungambakkam railway station when she was waiting to board a train to work. Her death triggered a huge debate about security at railway stations. After that episode, several announcements were made about installing CCTV cameras and strengthening security at stations. But till date, nothing much has really happened, and women commuters continue to feel unsafe and scared while walking in and out of railway stations, especially after 6 p.m.

D. Janani, a friend of Swathi, laments that things are still the same, and that no bystander comes to the aid of a woman in distress in such circumstances.

She is not alone. On Saturday, The Hindu reporters visited several railway stations to do a reality check on security infrastructure and ask women whether they really felt safe commuting on trains. There were no CCTV cameras at many places, security arrangements were inadequate and the lighting was poor at a few stations.

The stretch between the Velachery and Beach stations hardly has any CCTV camera. At many stations, anti-social elements take shelter in basements and empty rooms.

Anupama Subramani, who works at a tech park near Madhya Kailash, said: “Stations in this belt have empty rooms and there have been instances where men drink and tease women who take the stairs to go to the platform.” She added that the OMR belt housed large IT firms that employed over 40% of women and it would be ideal if mini booths with women constables were set up at such railway stations.

Poorly lit

Laxmi Vasudevan, a resident of Triplicane, said reaching the platform in Triplicane or Lighthouse was not easy. “There is no lighting and anti-social elements drink alcohol there and cause nuisance,” she said.

M. Prabhavathy, from Annanur, travels every day to the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central railway station to reach office. While she travels mostly during peak hours, on occasions when she has to travel at odd hours, she says her husband or son would always be there at the platform of the Annanur railway station to pick her up.

“I do not feel safe getting down at the station during the night, since lighting is not adequate and there are hardly any police personnel present,” she said.

Ananthi. P, a techie who takes the train from the Kotturpuram station, said a boy who was chasing her had once scribbled abuse about her on the wall at the station. “The issue was sorted out and I’m married now. But even today, the fear of being chased by someone haunts me,” she said.

S. Thiagarajan, who works in a factory near Pattabiram, pointed out that there were no CCTVs in a majority of the stations on this line. “I read it in the news that there were no CCTVs at the Chetpet station, where the incident happened on Friday. It looks like we have not learnt any lessons,” he said. No CCTV cameras could be spotted in Pattabiram, Annanur and Pattarravakkam stations on Saturday.

Several middle class commuters pointed out that they had limited commuting options and hence opted for trains.

B. Sandhya, a college student, said, “My father works as a clerk and I can’t afford to take a cab or bus to college as its very expensive. I travel with a monthly pass. It’s time the government and the police take security at railway stations seriously,” she said.

“There are so many shops at railway stations – even if there is a problem, none of the shopkeepers are bothered. It’s time they are given some training to help women during any crisis at the station,” said Kanaga, a student. “Cleaners and sweepers can also be given training,” she added.

S. Bhuvaneshwari, a school teacher, had a different view. She said that even with CCTV cameras and round-the-clock security, certain things cannot be avoided. “If women feel unsafe or that they are being stalked, they should seek help at home or alert the police,” she said.

(with inputs from R.Sivaraman, Pon Vasanth B.A and Sangeetha Kandavel)

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