On Sunday at around 4.30 p.m., a young woman got down at the Kasturba Nagar MRTS station. When she reached the first floor, a miscreant there harassed her and fled. Even though the girl shouted out, it was in vain as the station was deserted.
Though the city is said to be one of the safest for women in the country, the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), an integral part of Chennai’s transport network, seems to counter the city’s reputation. Despite repeated complaints from women commuters, several stations continue to harbour miscreants, especially during non-peak hours, as well as on holidays.
There are 17 MRTS stations in the city, but safety takes a back seat in most of them. Commuters say the Mylapore station is the safest as there is a Railway Protection Force (RPF) outpost there. “Station masters are there only at Mylapore and Chepauk. Stations like Greenways Road, Light House, Triplicane, Kotturpuram and Kasturba Nagar are unsafe,” said a commuter.
Police personnel usually patrol most stations’ second levels, where the tracks are, only during peak hours. During non-peak hours, the first and second levels are deserted. “There should be more patrolling during non-peak hours. These days, women have started travelling in groups due to the lack of safety in the stations,” said Gomathi Gunalan, a housemaid who travels from Mylapore to Kotturpuram for work every day.
“The lighting on the road to the Light House MRTS station is abysmal. Every evening, one can see husbands waiting to pick up their wives. Only one police officer is posted at the station,” said S. Mythili Kripakaran, a resident of Triplicane who commutes to Chennai Fort Station daily for work.
According to sources, crimes such as drug peddling too take place in the stations. “Chain snatching is not a major issue in these stations. But they become hubs of anti-social activities, as miscreants hide inside the stations before they close. Then they create havoc. Being alone, the policemen do not dare go in and check,” said the source.
Officers of the RPF said the main problem was the size of these stations. “There are multiple exit and entry points,” said an officer. He said that despite this, the crime rate in these stations had come down by 50 per cent. “Patrolling is done on a regular basis. Once the stations are closed, the officers go by road and keep a check on them,” said the officer