Over a month after Snapdeal employee Dipti Sarna (24) was abducted while going to her home in Kavi Nagar from the Vaishali Metro station, a lot has changed at the busy station.
Sarna was abducted on February 10 by four men in an auto. She took an auto from outside the Vaishali station around 8 pm, but it broke down at Mohan Nagar. She boarded another auto and was abducted by four men already sitting in the auto.
On Friday, an HT team carried out a reality check by travelling on the route on which Sarna was abducted. During the journey, the team realised that though some steps have been taken after the incident to make the city safer, a lot still needs to be done.
Vaishali Metro station well lit, but nearby stretches dark
The Vaishali Metro station and its vicinity are well lit with two high-mast sodium lights installed on the opposite side of the station where the auto stand is located. These lights are brighter than the halogen ones. Two high-mast halogen lights have also been installed near the station, lighting up all corners. The lights have been installed in the past one month. Also, unauthorised vendors, who were seen in large numbers at the station a month ago, are not seen here now.
After Sarna’s abduction, the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation swung into action and installed the high-mast lights and removed all illegal vendors from the station. The action came following Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s order that all crowd places in the city should be lit up.
However, while the area in the 300-metre radius of the Metro station is well lit, women still have to go to dark and secluded areas a little away from the station to board shared autos for Vasundhara and Mohan Nagar. This area is not more than 20 steps away from the high-mast lights but is dark.
“To make the auto stand less congested, smaller autos are allowed to park near the foot overbridge, while shared autos drivers have been instructed to wait at a distance from the spot,” said Anil Kumar, traffic inspector, Ghaziabad.
However, the area where shared autos are parked is dark.
“I generally reach the station around 8pm and go to my home in Vasundhara. I am scared to travel at night, especially after Sarna’s abduction,” said Mugdha Sharma, who usually travels in a shared auto.
The HT team did not see any police personnel or PCR van near the station around 9pm.
Dark stretches between Vaishali and Kaushambi ISBT
While travelling from the Kaushambi Metro station to the Vaishali Metro station, the team found that most of the streetlights from the Vaishali Sector 1 to the Dabur Cut were not functional. The streetlights from the Dabur Cut to Kaushambi Metro station were, however, working. Lights from the Kaushambi Metro station to Kaushambi bus depot were also not functional.
Ghaziabad municipal corporation said all non-functional streetlights will be repaired.
“The dark areas at the Vaishali Metro station will be inspected by our team and we will install lights there. We will also check all streetlights in this area and repair all those that are non-functional,” said DK Sinha, additional municipal commissioner.
On the brighter side, presence of prepaid auto booth at the bus depot was a positive change. The booth was not there a month ago. A total of 32 pre-paid autos are attached to the booth and the operators claimed that they were very safe mode of travel as the drivers have been verified by the police. Also, these autos display names and phone numbers of the drivers.
However, just 100 metres away from the prepaid auto booth, are a host of shared autos which are mostly driven by unverified drivers.
Mohd Haneef, a pre-paid auto driver, said, “It is the high fare of the pre-paid autos that force commuters to opt for shared autos. Shared autos charge around Rs15-20, but prepaid autos take around Rs 80-100 for the same route,” said Raj Nagar Extension road, dark and scary
As the HT team went towards Raj Nagar Extension, where Sarna was taken by her abductors, it noticed that none of the streetlights on the Karhera overbridge was functional. On the Karhera crossing, there were men who were drinking on the roadside.
As the flyover ended on the Raj Nagar Extension road, there were police barriers. However, no policemen were manning the barriers. The team did not see any functional light or policemen till Morti Village, which was Sarna’s last location known to the police.
Also, there is no public transport in the area, which is an upcoming housing hub.
“Public transport vehicles like bus and shared autos are only available till Raj Nagar. If a person has to go onward to Raj Nagar Extension, he will either have to book a cab or a private auto,” said Simran Rajvanshi, a resident of Raj Nagar.
Police to enhance patrolling
According to Superintendent of Police (city) Salman Taj, orders have been given to police stations in these areas to increase patrolling.
“We have increased patrolling in areas around the Vaishali Metro station and have ordered the same for the Kaushambi Metro station. Apart from this, all police stations in the city have been ordered to increase patrolling frequency, especially in secluded areas like Raj Nagar Extension. The police are always on alert and any suspected activity in the city is taken seriously,” said Salman Taj.
PICTURES SAY IT ALL
Through photos clicked by HT lensman Sakib Ali, we look at the problems that commuters, especially women, encounter while travelling in the city by public transport at night.