Women claim to feel unsafe while travelling in suburban trains in Navi Mumbai

A large number of women commuters from Navi Mumbai who travel on harbour and trans-harbour lines during the odd hours say that they feel unsafe inside the trains as well as on the platforms because of insufficient security, anti-social elements outside the stations or lack of safety walls at some stations
Women commuters feel unsafe while waiting for trains during odd hours at Navi Mumbai railway stations. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
Women commuters feel unsafe while waiting for trains during odd hours at Navi Mumbai railway stations. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Dec 02, 2021 06:39 PM IST
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By, Navi Mumbai

Twenty eight-year-old Kanika Surve, who works at a beauty salon at Vashi, returns to her home in Kharghar late in the night by local trains. She complains that the women compartment in the train do not have guards most of the time, leading to her feeling insecure.

“Very rarely can I see an unarmed guard in the compartment, but I have never come across anyone patrolling on the platforms in the past four years. Also, the outer side of Kharghar station is not well lit. It’s very scary to wait for buses and autos after alighting from the trains at that hour,” she said.

According to an estimate made by the Railways, around eight lakh women travel by train in the satellite city daily.

A large number of women commuters from Navi Mumbai who travel on harbour and trans-harbour lines during the odd hours say that they do not feel safe inside the trains as well as on the platforms because of insufficient security, anti-social elements outside the stations or lack of safety walls at some stations.

Nerul is one of the prominent railway stations in Navi Mumbai that sees over 60,000 footfalls in a day. The station premises have a liquor shop (licensed) on its West side. The commuters allege that some people drink liquor outside that shop and lie down near the platforms. “On several occasions, I have seen drunkards lying near the platforms and outside the station. The police should take stern action against such people,” said Jyothika P, a 31-year-old resident of Ulwe.

At Juinagar and Sanpada stations, the commuters often come across commercial sex workers in the evenings. They keep loitering near the premises and lure the commuters with obscene gestures. Shenal Mane, a 25-year-old resident of Sanpada, said, “These sex workers may not be a threat to the safety of the woman commuters, but the men who go to them are.”

The absence of compound walls has been yet another issue at several stations including Vashi. The Vashi station has two underpasses. However, people can also illegally enter the platforms from the sides due to the lack of such walls. “The criminals know these loopholes and, thus, can easily run away through those routes after snatching a chain, mobile phone or a bag from the commuters. This station also does not have lights at several places,” said Upasana Sharma, a 35-year-old resident of Vashi.

On the trans-harbour line (which connects Navi Mumbai with Thane), the fatka gangs are a cause for serious concern. These criminals normally keep waiting along the railway tracks at isolated spots. Whenever a train crosses those spots, they hit the commuters (who travel standing at the doors) with long sticks or give fatka. The commuters’ wallets or mobile phones then fall off their hands and they collect them easily. Even as the number of such cases has decreased, these gangs are still active in some places. So far this year, the Vashi GRP has busted one fatka gang between Ghansoli and Rabale station.

In the first 11 months this year, the Vashi GRP registered a total of 167 FIRs and one of them was of sexual assault on a woman. The Panvel GRP registered 286 FIRs in the corresponding period and two cases were of sexual assaults.

Vishnu Kesarkar, senior inspector of Vashi GRP, said, “This week, we have received 175 home guards and have increased patrolling in the trains as well as on the platforms. We are aware of the issue of the drunkards at Nerul station and have registered multiple FIRs against those people so far. Recently, we also arrested a few people who were illegally selling liquor outside Nerul station at night and seized liquor worth 25,000 from them. We also inform the city police if we get to know about the existence of anti-social elements outside our jurisdiction.”

Some criminals loot the commuters in the long-distance trains that pass through Panvel station and hence the GRP has to take extra efforts to ensure the safety of those commuters.

Sambhaji Khatare, senior inspector of Panvel GRP, said, “Every morning, we dispatch one team to Vasai station and another team to Roha station. There, they board the trains coming towards Panvel and check every compartment so that no one can loot the commuters.”

Bhakti Dave, president of Panvel Pravasi Sangh, said, “In an empty compartment, a woman commuter normally hesitates to approach a male police official. Several women don’t even board the ladies’ compartments at night because they cannot see any other woman but a male police official there. Therefore, GRP should provide more women police officials in the trains.”

CIDCO is responsible for the maintenance of the station premises and their lighting systems. A CIDCO official said, “We keep conducting surveys at the railway stations and whenever we find the need of a compound wall or a new lighting system, we take the requisite measures immediately.”

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Friday, January 28, 2022