On her way back home after special computer science classes in her college, Komala G., second year BCA student, found herself being followed by a two middle-aged men.
The short kilometre-long walk from her college in Koramangala to her paying guest (PG) accommodation “felt like it took an hour”, she recalls.
“That’s when I discovered that Bangalore is not the safe city that everyone thinks it is,” said the 19-year-old who moved here from Hassan for her education.
Since then, every other day, these two men would stand around the street corner waiting for her to walk by.
“It got so unbearable that I dropped out of those extra classes. I was hoping those value-add classes would help me build my portfolio, but eventually I chose safety over the classes,” she said.
She thought of complaining to the police but her PG warden advised her against it.
Poor or no amenities
What scares Komala, and young students like her, is that their PG accommodations don’t offer the security that hostels do.
Most colleges, particularly the newer ones, don’t have hostel facilities. And many of the older hostels offer poor amenities, are in a shambles, and don’t provide a conducive atmosphere to study, students say, forcing many of them to opt for PGs.
Many students from across colleges The Hindu spoke to complained that the security at these accommodations is lax.
Many PGs don’t even employ as much as a security guard, says Aparna (name changed), a first year student of a college on J.C. Road.
Though her college provides accommodation for students, the hostel fee of Rs. 1.2 lakh is “simply exorbitant” she says.
Though her PG is relatively safe, with strict curfew, most others are “simply unsafe”, she feels.
“The PG my friend lives in allows family members to visit late in the night. Without as much as a security guard, it feels really unsafe,” she says.
Many of engineering colleges don’t provide hostel accommodation for first year students.
A second year student at a college near Uttarahalli says that though her college has a girls’ hostel, there aren’t enough rooms.
“When colleges expand their intake, it should be mandatory to expand hostels. I have no option but to stay outside campus. This means that I cannot stay back too late and use the college library or laboratory, which puts me at a disadvantage compared to hostellers,” she says.
Being located in a part of Bangalore that is not “fully urban”, the woman who runs her PG expects them to return before it is dark.
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, (West) Pronab Mohanty said that the police was “aware of the security situation and the challenge”.
In fact, he said, in many zones the police had a detailed inventory of all the paying guest accommodations, for students and working women, and kept tabs on these areas.
“Beat officers often keep an eye out on this area, and keep tabs at times when girls tend to travel to and from here,” he said.
Following the Delhi rape, paying guest accommodations are being encouraged to employ guards, he said, and the smaller ones can install CCTVs in common areas or near the entrance.