Last week, a 24-year-old architect had a nightmarish experience in Koramangala 5th block. Noticing her walking alone on a dimly-lit road around 8.30 p.m., a cab driver attempted to rape her. She managed to raise an alarm, fight back and get the culprit arrested.
Poorly-lit streets or those without any lighting pose a danger to Bengalureans, more so women, especially those who do not use motorised forms of transport. They complain of vehicles slowing down next to them or people passing lewd remarks. Women in the city, who have no option but to pass through such stretches, take each step with the constant fear of danger lurking in some corner. At times, their guiding light is the torch in their mobile phones or the headlights of vehicles passing by.
According to Shruthi Venkatesh, a resident of Kengeri, though there are street lights in the area, they are simply not adequate. “The roads towards Bangalore University and Nagarabhavi are not properly lit. If you are passing through them in a car, it is fine. But walking through them is not advisable,” she says.
Jasmeen Patheja, Blank Noise, says, “We have to move beyond reasons for women to be on that road to just walking there with a sense of belonging, ownership and pride in their city instead of fear. Building safe spaces has to be a collective concern. Each of us, as individuals and or as institutions, can contribute to building safe spaces. This one calls for BBMP and Bescom to step in, take ownership, contribute to building safe spaces for women and for all. This is a question of infrastructure, much easier than a long term attitudinal change.
Poor lit streets are perceived as dangerous. A well lit street would reduce fear. It would make the street welcoming, for women and for all, including senior citizens. It would enable mobility. Imagine more women walking down that street; just the presence of women would make a place feel safe. Small steps, each of us can do our part.”CBD too
Some others pointed to heavily wooded areas being left in the dark. But the situation is no better even in the central business district.
“I get off the metro at M.G. Road and walk towards Shivajinagar and vice-versa. You can see nothing while walking from Anil Kumble Circle to BRV Junction along General Cariappa Memorial Park. I count on the headlights of passing vehicles to take the next step,” said Chetana A., who lives in Ulsoor.Not just roads
Wading through the darkness is not something that is limited to streets in the city. Asha Mathews, who uses the skywalk on Palace Grounds near Sophia School, has been paralysed with fear several times when the lights have gone off as she is walking on the skywalk.
“I just don’t understand what to do when that happens. Crossing the road is dangerous enough, but using the skywalk at night is not safe either,” she said.Possible solution: ‘LED bulbs’
BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad says, “Yes, there are gaps which we are aware of and which we are trying to fix. The long-term solution is using LED bulbs on the entire streetlight network. This will ensure uniform light quality throughout the city. This might take a year’s time. The Energy Department is drafting a policy on this. This model has been implemented in Bhubaneshwar in Odisha. A private party will invest in installing the LED lights and maintaining them. The payment to the private party will be linked to maintenance of the street lights. The BBMP spends Rs. 12 crore every month on electricity charges for street lights. Adding operation and maintenance costs, the total spend is around Rs. 200 crore annually. With the new model, we hope to make some savings as well as overcome the present problems.”People’s quotes
“The stretch from Hulimavu to Gottigere on Bannerghatta Road is pitch dark. There are no street lights posing difficulties for pedestrians and motorists,” says Suresh R.
“I live on the border of Bommanahalli Zone west end and Rajarajeshwari Zone east end in Jaraganahalli ward. There are no street lights below the metro station. Mugging is frequent on the dark stretch,” says Subramanian.Reader’s Mail
We live in Classic Layout on Begur Road. Street lights are inadequate, leaving the layout prone to chain snatching and robberies
— Sundaram Srinivasan
Bad condition of the Chokkanahalli road: no tar, no street lights, accidents waiting to happen
Issue is of women safety as many stretches in the city do not have street lights and regular patrolling. As street lights are not there, most of the roads are not safe
— Ixit Shah