Unsafe public spaces: When danger lurks outside Delhi’s Metro stations
HT SPOTLIGHT | Daily commuters, including men, say they feel unsafe after exiting from many metro stations in Delhi. Just last month, two women were molested within a span of 15 minutes at the ITO metro stationdelhi Updated: Dec 22, 2017 08:31 IST
The opening of the Chattarpur metro station in early 2010 came as a relief for Vasant Kunj resident Prachi Yadav. Never before was a metro station located so close to her house and she started using it to commute to her workplace in Nehru Place every day.
Though the station gave her a quick access to the metro, it also brought along another problem. Yadav says she “cannot” use the metro on her way back home as she feels it is unsafe.
“The area outside Chattarpur metro station is deserted after 9 pm. Even e-rickshaws and autos stop operating after 8.30 pm. The road is unsafe as drunk men start roaming around after dusk. I have to call my husband to pick me up,” she said.
Like 38-year-old Yadav, there are many daily commuters, including men, who feel unsafe after exiting from metro stations. Last month, two women were molested within a span of 15 minutes at the ITO metro station.
The problem is similar at other metro stations across the city.
Hindustan Times visited metro stations and spoke to commuters returning home from work.
At metro stations in Dwarka, Chattarpur, Rohini East, Nehru Place and Okhla, commuters said last-mile connectivity was a major problem. Most commuters said the absence of last-mile connectivity made them more vulnerable to anti-social elements.
“Outside the Dwarka sector 12 metro station, we have to hop on to a cycle-rickshaw or an autorickshaw to reach the main road, which is at least 15 minutes away from the residential area. The stretch is poorly lit and is deserted after 9 pm,” said Pramod Kakkar, a resident of Dwarka.
Those who choose to walk from the stations are at a greater risk. In June last year, two employees of a private trading company were robbed and their bag with Rs 10 lakh cash was snatched by bikers outside the Shastri Nagar Metro station in north-east Delhi.
The situation remains unchanged despite Delhi Police conducting a security audit of metro stations two years ago. The audit said that one-third of the metro stations was ‘unsafe, particularly for women’.
While assessing the status of lighting arrangements in metro parking lots and on roads leading to the stations, police found that 44 of the 125 metro stations in Delhi had inadequate lighting.
Areas around centrally located Rajiv Chowk, Barakhamba Road, Mandi House, R.K. Ashram Marg, Jhandewalan and Karol Bagh metro stations were found unsafe. None of the stations in east Delhi such as Laxmi Nagar, Yamuna Bank, Preet Vihar and Nirman Vihar had proper lighting.
No new audit or survey has been conducted since then by police or any government agency. “We prepare such reports on a daily basis now. Police vans have been directed to identify poorly lit areas immediately and a compiled list is submitted to the respective DCPs,” a police official said.
The government said its project to illuminate dark spots includes several stretches outside metro stations and the project will be completed by January.
But, till then, the daily battle for commuters continues. Commuters getting out of Harkesh Nagar Okhla Metro station told HT that with no streetlights and security officials, walking is the “last resort.”
“It is scary to commute in metros after 9 pm. I once got out of the Nehru Place metro station at 9.30 pm and had to wait for almost half an hour for an auto. When an auto finally arrived, the driver insisted on taking more passengers,” said 48-year-old Archana Yadav, a resident of Kalkaji.
Those working in the field of women’s safety suggest police presence needs to be deployed at pedestrianised stretches, apart from the main roads.
“The main roads are well covered by PCR vans/bikes. However, the routes preferred by pedestrians, usually the shortest, need to have police patrolling or CCTV surveillance,” said Kalpana Viswanath, women’s rights activist and co-founder of SafetiPin, an NGO.
The NGO had conducted a safety study around metro stations and recommended that stands for autos and cyclerickshaws need to be created at regular intervals for people to be able to reach or leave the metro stations comfortably.
“The location needs to be decided on the basis of entry/exits office/residential societies and markets. Bus connectivity to the areas along the metro also needs to be improved,” it stated.
The audit was conducted around metro stations such as Barakhamba, Janpath, RK Ashram, Shivaji Stadium apart from those in the Yellow Line (HUDA City Centre to Samaypur Badli).
The audits that were done in the evening hours of 5pm-10pm found stations such as Jor Bagh below average in terms of visibility, security and crowd.
The audit found that main roads leading to the station tend to be secluded post office hours.