In order to rein in anti-social elements from running amok in the subways, especially after evening hours, the Public Works Department (PWD) last year had proposed a plan to open shops with proper lighting, cleanliness and other steps such as security guards, so that subways don’t wear a deserted look. The aim behind the plan was to provide safety and security and to encourage the public to use these subways situated across the city.
The PWD top brass after receiving umpteen complaints, asked its staff to conduct special inspections and also to keep a close eye on the maintenance and cleanliness of the Foot Over Bridge (FOB) situated across the city.
However, in a reality check done by The Pioneer found that 90 per cent of the subways and FOBs constructed by the PWD are in pathetic condition
as nauseating stench
emanates 24/7 and pedestrians could be seen putting scarves on their nose to escape the foul smell.
The Pioneer visited more than 10 subways situated across the city such as Lajpat Nagar, Andrews Ganj, Kashmere Gate, Asaf Ali Road, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Bhikaji Cama Place, Munirka, Safdurjung, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), ITO, Connaught Place (CP), Scindia House and found that people especially women avoid using these subways. Vagabonds and drug addicts could be seen inside subways and that acts as a deterrent to the people.
The shopkeepers and people living near Kashmere Gate, said, “It’s better to wait at the red light and cross the road than using the subways which accommodates anti-social elements such as drug addicts, pickpocketers and thieves. Why to take risk when a little wait can take you to the other side safely”, they added.
There are two subways at the Kashmere Gate that are not connected to Delhi Metro and are virtual nightmare for the public as the underground walkways is poorly constructed, stinking as the people urinate, the walls are dirty and littered with betel stains. Moreover, the local people and the shop dwellers are scared to use these subways as it is a home for drug addicts, who often rob people. “The walkways have been constructed but there are no proper facility, no lights, stinking and no security guard. Even if there is a guard either he is drunk or he also fears these drug addicts and outlwas. These subways are not safe for both the boys and girls,” said Zakir Ahmad, a resident of Kashmere Gate.
Another subway situated near Hanuman Mandir, Yamuna Bazar (Kashmere Gate) that allows both vehicles (auto, motor cycles, rickshaws) and there is no separate track for pedestrians. It becomes extremely dangerous after the sunset as poor lighting makes it easier for the anti-social elements to control the subways. Locals said they fear using this subway, even during the day as these elements are lurking in the vicinity.
Currently, there are approximately 50 subways and 73 Foot over Bridges (FOB) located in different parts of Delhi for the use of pedestrians. According to officials, the PWD plans to open shops in the subways and provide proper lighting so that subways don’t wear a deserted look.
PWD’s measures were announced after Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal directed the department to address this issue and take remedial measures. The main aim of the plan was to remove the anti-social activities being carried out in subways after sunset.
The authorities have decided to provide space in subways wherever feasible for shops which can be operated till late at night.
At Bhikajii Cama Place, there was 20 year old Aishwarya who was franctically waiving at speeding motorists to allow her passage to cross the road said, “I know it is risky but my personal safety is more important. The subway is highly unsafe and scary too.
The other subway behind the Bhikaji complex has become a bit better after it was connected with the metro station. Authorities should also link the other subway with the metro to make it safer as more people will will be using it.”
In other places such as at Lajpat Nagar and Andrews Ganj, pedestrians also complained about the lack of escalators, ramps and lifts. At INA market, it has been observed that even after the subway has been linked to Delhi metro station, junkies, homeless and stray dogs could be seen loitering around after DMRC closes its gates at 11 pm.
When asked, a senior PWD official on condition of anonymity, said that subways have always been an issue of safety. The department has proposed a plan to provide safety of pedestrians at these walkways and to remove the deserted look. The work of illuminating, cleanliness and spaces for setting up shops has started at various places such as currently at Safdurjung Subway, proper lights has been installed and around spaces has been created where three shops can come up. Tender process for setting up shops is under the process and all the subways will also be upgraded soon.”
A senior Delhi Police official said, “Subways are definitely an area of concern and beat staffs are briefed from time to time to keep an eye on anti-social elements. It requires sustained policing and the number of police personnel would be increased to maintain law and order in and around the subways”.