In Delhi at night, one cannot escape the reasons for which the city has come to be ignominiously designated the Rape Capital: vast swathes of roads are either dimly lit or in pitch darkness. The scene is no better, or even worse off, in the neighbouring towns of Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad.
Since December 16, when the capital was outraged by the gang rape of a 23-year-old in a moving bus and almost a year after the government promised a lot for women, nothing has changed.
An HT team roamed the streets at night and found this: roads are still deserted and menacingly still at night, the eerie silence punctuated only by distant sirens of police PCRs that cannot be seen and long stretches of roads are lined by streetlight poles which are but mere stumps as they don’t work.
“Darkness accentuates the propensity to commit a crime as the fear of identification is greatly reduced. Also, the victim loses confidence under the fear of the unknown, while the perpetrator grows bolder. The absence of public transport also exacerbates such situations. Women are the worst-affected,” said Ashum Gupta, head of the Delhi University’s psychology department.
Dark areas not monitored
Though Gurgaon authorities had taken steps to ensure safety at night in some areas after an HT for Gurgaon campaign earlier in the year, several stretches are still dark and 100% lighting of roads seems to be a distant reality.
The unlit stretches are not even frequented by PCR vans or traffic cops. An HT team, while travelling in Gurgaon at night, noticed that no PCR van crossed dark stretches such as the Golf Course Road, sector roads of 56-57, MG Road and Faridabad Road for over half an hour.
Between 9pm and 2am, HT did not find any group of women on the road without men accompanying them, including on MG Road which, given the sobriquet of “mall mile”, is known to be a favourite destination for women from across NCR. This raises a big question mark on the safety of women in Gurgaon on the roads, especially at night, and also the perception of safety in their minds.
“We have fewer personnel than Delhi Police, yet we try to do our best,” said Alok Mittal, police commissioner.
Stretches strike fear
Pooja Negi, a Vaishali resident, is gripped by fear every time she leaves the secure and well-lit Metro station in her area in the evenings. “It’s easy to be ensnared by criminals waiting in the unlit stretches. It’s scary,” Negi says. She asks her family members to pick her up.
She is among the thousands of women who leave and return to the city in the evenings from offices and colleges in Delhi or Noida. A large number of street lights in newly developed areas such as Vaishali, Vasundhara, Kaushambi and Indirapuram do not work.
An estimated 30% of the 51,217 street lights do not work, some officials said. “We have reduced the number of defunct street lights from 30% to nearly 10%. We will identify dark areas,” municipal commissioner Rakesh Kumar Singh said.
Restrictions on movement
Women in housing societies in Noida and Greater Noida say they have stopped wearing gold chains because of bike-borne chain snatchers who take advantage of dark areas.
The worst affected are Sectors 12, 15, 20, 22, 30, 34, 46, 47, 51, 63, 64, 65 and 71. Not only residential areas, industrial sectors too are equally dark.
“We have been requesting the Noida authority to install more street lights in various sectors,” said AN Dhawan, representative of the Federation of RWAs.
(With inputs from Siddhartha Rai and Astha Saxena)