Counted among one of the fastest growing corporate hubs in the country, Gurgaon is home to more than 250 Fortune500 companies. But it seems that the city has been unable to provide a safe environment to its large number of office goers, especially women.
A safety audit conducted recently by social enterprise Safetipin has found that all major corporate or commercial hubs in Gurgaon score low on safety parameters.
In the survey, the hubs were rated on nine parameters- lighting, openness, visibility, crowd, security, footpaths, transport, gender usage and feeling of safety.
Areas with average scores below 1 out of 5 have been rated ‘poor’, those with scores between 1 and 3.4 have been rated ‘average’ and the ones with scores above 3.4 have been rated ‘good’.
Interestingly, among the six commercial hubs-- MG Road, Golf Course Road, Sector 34, Sector 44, Cyber City and Udyog Vihar-- only MG Road has scored above 3 out of 5.
Golf Course Road, which has several offices, hotels and posh condominiums, was ranked one of the lowest with a score of only 1.6 out of 5. Safetipin has rated the area ‘average’.
The safety scenario of the area is important as at least 15 projects have been planned here, including expansion of Golf Course Road to make it a 16-lane expressway and southward extension of the Rapid Metro from the Sikanderpur station to Sector 56.
Commuters passing through the area and corporate employees working here said though it is being developed rapidly, safety has not been given due importance.
They said there is very little police presence in the area most of the times.
“Thousands of people come to this area every day but it has no streetlights, sign boards or footpaths, making commuting very difficult. Also, policemen are rarely seen patrolling the area,” said Ankita Singh, whose office is in the area.
Similarly, the DLF Cyber City road, a 2-km long circular loop which has more than 10 buildings, has scored only 2.3 out of 5, which is ‘average’. The buildings house hundreds of corporate offices where over three lakh employees come to work every day.
Most of those working in the area agreed with the survey results. According to them, the place is plagued by several problems like lack of footpaths, police presence and streetlights. Women working in the area say a lot of stretches there are dark and they feel unsafe at night.
“There is a wine shop very close to my office and a lot of people park their vehicles there at night,” said Yashika Batla, an employee of a Gurgaon-based MNC who lives in Delhi.
Udyog Vihar, which has several companies in and around it, has also scored low in the audit. It has been given a score of only 2.9 out of 5, which is also ‘average’.
Office-goers complain that public transport facilities and last-mile connectivity in the area are very poor.
“The area is lined up with big and small firms, but there is no last-mile connectivity in Udyog Vihar. It is difficult to find an autorickshaws in the area, especially at night. Also bus services are not available here,” said Ridhima Singh, employee of an MNC in the area.
Similarly, Sector 44, which has several offices, hotels and even a cultural hub, Epicentre, has not scored high. The sector has scored 1.5, performing badly on four parameters of security, transport, lighting and gender usage.
Sector 34, which has the office of the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon, has also fared badly in the survey, scoring an average of 2.1.
“There are a lot of dark stretches around Sector 34. Another major problem faced by us is frequent waterlogging,” said Anuraga Basu, a resident of Sector 34.
Pooja Misra, an employee of a private firm in Sector 44, said, “The area is crowded all the time but we rarely see police patrolling the roads.”
Surprisingly, MG Road is among the top scorers in the commercial area category, with an average score of 3.4.
The road, with nine malls on each side and a metro station, is infamous for poor safety, with several incidents of drunken brawls being reported from here in the past.
Residents of the area said though the area is well-lit and has many options for last-mile connectivity like autorickshaws, buses and metro, it is unsafe at night.
“My parents do not allow me to travel alone on MG Road after 9pm. There are several bars and clubs and there have been cases where drunken men have created a nuisance on the road,” said Harshita Pande, a resident of the city.
Even four Metro stations-- Huda City Centre, Iffco Chowk, MG Road, and Sikanderpur-- in the city have not passed the safety test.
No Metro station, other than the one on MG Road, scored an average of more than 2 out of 5 in the Safetipin audit.
Iffco Chowk Metro station scored the lowest with an average score of only 1.5, followed by the Huda City Centre station with an average score of 1.7.
According to metro commuters, there are many dark and deserted stretches around these stations and this makes them unsafe. Also, the last-mile connectivity is poor and police presence is very low. “There is very little security around metro stations. CISF officials keep a strict vigil inside the stations but as one steps out, there is no security at all. Last-mile connectivity is also a problem,” said Nikita Sharma, a college student.
The police, meanwhile, said they are taking several initiatives to make the city safer.
“The police have taken serious initiatives like ‘Romeo Free Gurgaon’ and community policing. We will make more efforts to ensure that the residents of Gurgaon feel safe on roads,” said Balbir Singh, deputy commissioner of police (crime), Gurgaon.
‘I was robbed while on a morning walk in Sec 15’
Shalini Baweja, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who lives in Sector 15 part -1, goes for morning walk in the area every day around 7am.
According to her, on January 19, while she was walking, two men on motorbike approached her and asked for the way to a golf course in the area.
“While I was talking to them, one of them got down from the bike and snatched my gold chain,” said Baweja.
“They then threatened me that if I shout for help, they will shoot me. One of them had a gun. The pillion rider then asked the driver to flee the spot,” she said.
Baweja said there was no one on the stretch in the morning so she did not raise the alarm.
She said since the incident, she has changed her morning walk route as well as the timings.
In another case, An 80-year-old resident of Sector 15 part 2, Namisha Patel said two men cheated her and fled with her diamond ring worth Rs 2 lakh in October.
She said the incident took place at a garden close to her house in the posh Sector 15 (part 1).
According to the police, Patel had gone to the garden for morning walk when a man approached her, acting as an acquaintance.
“He resembled a neighbour and so I thought it was him. He said he had started a new transport business and touched my feet for blessings saying it was his birthday that day,” Patel said.
“Then suddenly he pulled out my ring and fled. His accomplice was waiting for him on a scooter. I returned home immediately and informed my family. The police was informed and a constable from the Civil Lines police station came and took down my complaint,” she said.
The police said they are investigating the case.
‘My parents do not allow me to hire auto at night’
Priya Kumar, a 21-year-old resident of the city, uses the metro to go to work in Delhi every day. She generally finishes her work around 9 pm and takes the metro to return home.
Kumar said she reaches Gurgaon around 10:30 pm and her parents make sure that someone goes to pick her up from the Sikanderpur Metro station as the area around it is not safe.
“My parents do not allow me to hire an autorickshaw to reach home from the station,” said Kumar.
“There have been many incidents when I was followed by drunken men who passed lewd comments at me. I cannot shout back or raise my voice as there is no police presence in the area at night,” she said.
Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road (MG Road), on which the station is located, is infamous for incidents of crime against women. The area around the Metro station is not properly lit and sees a comparatively lower footfall after 8 at night.
Located on the mall mile of the city, the station is close to shopping complexes which have a number of clubs and bars. Many incidents involving drunken men have been reported from the area. The police have taken several initiatives to check such incidents, including the ‘Romeo Free Gurgaon’ campaign.
Though policemen are deployed on MG Road, they cannot cover the entire stretch. Personnel are generally deployed towards the MG Road metro station as it sees a higher footfall and is close to the malls.
“There are several police jeeps in the area but they are mostly deployed towards the MG Road station. The area around Sikanderpur Metro station is deserted after 10 pm. I feel very scared in the area,” Kumar said.