A year after Swathi murder, concerns loom over women’s safety

Commuters say CCTV cameras can act as a powerful deterrent and their absence at many railway stations in the city makes them feel unsafe

Updated - December 03, 2021 04:55 pm IST

Published - June 23, 2017 09:22 am IST - CHENNAI

A year has gone by since the gruesome murder of Infosys techie Swathi at Nungambakkam railway station, which shook Chennai. The case turned out to be a whoddunit, with a late night arrest drama, suicide attempts, and a death in jail.

The Swathi murder case showcased the vulnerability of women commuters travelling in public places, particularly in trains, in the city. It was also a wake up call for the Southern Railway to come up with comprehensive safety and security measures, mainly targeting women commuters.

Long-reported issue

Harassment of women in suburban trains has been a long-reported issue. It is not uncommon to hear of men getting on to the ladies compartment, harassing women, and even snatching their chains. A slew of measures were promised that would enhance the safety of women, including installing CCTV cameras, better patrolling, improving lighting in stations and approach roads, helplines, and even a special mobile application.

In the year since, some of these promises have been fulfilled. But the very nature of railway stations continues to render women commuters vulnerable.


Many women commuters said CCTV cameras would go a long way in making them feel safe since the cameras are a deterrent. Railway officials say the tender for their installation has been finalised and soon most stations would be fitted with them.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF), after the murder, joined forces with the Government Railway Police (GRP) to put in place several safety measures like 24-hour helplines, posting of RPF personnel, creating awareness for women passengers through loud speakers in railway stations and seeing through a proposal to install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in 52 railway stations.

A senior official of Southern Railway said it has been proposed to increase the presence of RPF and GRP in suburban train services. The first was the launch of ‘Sakthi Padai’ where RPF women constables started travelling in ladies coaches of suburban train.

Initially it covered 22 electrical multiple unit (EMU) trains and has been increased to 84 EMU trains, he added.


The RPF, based on the findings of a survey, posted armed Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) personnel at trouble-prone suburban stations on the Moore Market Complex-Tiruvallur section including MMC, Perambur, Tirumullaivoyal, Nemilichery, Ambattur, Hindu College and Tiruninravur during morning and evening rush hours.

Nuisance of liquor

A senior official of the RPF said in several railway stations on the north and west sections, the presence of liquor shops was posing a headache to commuters and as part of it, 8,000 cases had been booked against persons causing nuisance to commuters, including women.

A senior GRP official said the helpline has been converted into a realtime emergency response centre where complaints concerning harassment, assault or chain snatching, once registered would be immediately routed to the particular railway station. He said round-the-clock patrolling is being carried out on the vulnerable stretch between Basin Bridge, Vyasarpadi Jeeva and Korukkupet with GRP personnel manning the watchtower located near the Korukkupet station.


In the MRTS stations which are popular among IT employees, there are complaints galore of sprawling railway stations being poorly guarded and having poor lighting. Sujatha Modi of Pen Thozhilargal Sangam said: “Women commuters find travelling in suburban trains beyond the peak evening rush hours unsafe on the MRTS and Tiruvallur routes.”

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