Women's safety: Let there be light, always in Mumbai
Authorities failed to consider women’s safety while developing Mumbai's business hubs, resulting in poorly lit streets, no CCTV surveillance, say experts.mumbai Updated: May 20, 2015 15:49 IST
Employment opportunities for women in the city have risen tenfold over the years, but the infrastructure to support this boom has failed to catch up. Authorities have been woefully inept in addressing the problems faced by women working in Mumbai's business hubs like Malad-Goregaon, Vikhroli-Powai, Andheri-Saki Naka, Bandra-Kurla Complex and Lower-Parel-Elphinstone-Parel.
While these business hubs house some of the biggest multinational companies, authorities have failed to consider women’s safety while developing them.
This is evident from the poor accessibility and public transport facilities to these areas. Some common complaints among the women working in these hubs include inadequate bus services, poorly lit streets, no CCTV surveillance, and inadequate display of signage and helpline numbers.
This means working women either avoid working till late, don’t take deserted short cuts or call a family member to pick them up. “I avoid working till late because finding an autorickshaw in Seepz gets difficult even after 7pm. Besides, the Kondivita lane, which is a short cut that connects to both Chakala and Western Express Highway Metro stations, is deserted and dark. As result, I take the longer route to the Metro station,” said Pinal Shah, 24, and Kandivli resident.
Experts said instead of keeping these hubs largely commercial or industrial, the authorities and developers should have focused on the multipurpose use of the land by providing residential and entertainment hubs in the same vicinity.
“Most of these hubs get secluded at night. Therefore, it becomes unsafe for women employees to work or travel at night. Things would have been different if there was a residential complex or entertainment hubs in the same vicinity,” said Nitai Mehta, Praja Foundation, trustee.
Yet another flaw pointed out by experts was inefficient public transport and inadequate toilets in these business hubs. “These hubs are not developed with women’s safety in mind. The government or developers had sufficient land while constructing these hubs, but still no thought was given to constructing a sufficient number of toilets, efficient public transport facilities and crèches,” said Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara, a non-profit organisation.
Moreover, accessing these business hubs is yet another challenge for women employees during non-peak hours. Even a decade after the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) was established as a commercial hub, the women who work here find it unsafe to enter the area during off-peak hours. Women commuters avoid taking the Bandra (East) skywalk, which connects Kalanagar and BKC to Bandra railway station, because it almost always wears a deserted look. “I generally avoid taking the skywalk during early morning hours such as 7am because of miscreants. I prefer taking an autorickshaw from the station,” said Minal Joshi, 21, a student of Chetana College, Bandra.
Women commuters at Kurla station suggested a skywalk from the station to the bus stop, cutting across the autorickshaw and taxi stand. “We have to climb down from Kurla station and walk through crowded lanes to reach the bus stop. There should be direct access between the two,” said Duhita Bute, 28, Dombivli resident.