Bengaluru: The brutal rape and murder of a 27-year- old veterinary doctor near Tondupally toll gate on the Outer Ring Road near the RGI Airport in Hyderabad Wednesday night, has shaken the conscience of people across the country and triggered nationwide outrage.
The absence of streetlights where the woman doc parked her two-wheeler near the toll plaza is identified as one of the prime reasons for her abduction according to investigators in this case. Her life could have been saved if the stretch had been properly lit, they claim.
The shocking incident is a grim reminder to our lawmakers, civic bodies like BBMP, the police, power supply companies and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to ensure the safety of women by installing streetlights on all major roads, junctions and bridges with particular focus on poorly lit areas in Bengaluru.It could also be one of the cardinal bypoll issues.
Poorly-lit streets or those without no lights at all pose a potent danger to Bengalureans and more so women, especially those who do not use motorized forms of transport. Women often 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.
Deccan Chronicle visited some tea shops in various parts of the city and found people engaged in animated discussion on the pressing issue of safety of women, the absence of streetlights in the city particularly near toll plazas and the outer ring road. Karnataka has more than 39 toll plazas on National Highways developed by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and more than 17 toll plazas on state highways developed by the Public Works Department(PWD) for collection of user fees.
The authorities have also built the outer ring road (ORR) in the city to ease traffic congestion particularly in the Central Business District areas, but many of the ORR stretches do not have proper streetlights and lighting arrangements posing a threat to motorists and increasing the possibility of road accidents.
Poorly lit streets are perceived as dangerous for women and increase the possibility of sexual assault, mugging and other crimes. On the other hand, a well lit street automatically reduces the fear element and enables women and senior citizens to travel on it with confidence.
Streetlights must be a part of every road widening project according to National Transportation, Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) authorities, but this is not happening on many highways and ORRs It is the joint responsibility of city civic bodies, power supply companies and state and central authorities to ensure adequate streetlights in their limits. But it has not happened so far despite various court rulings. There is also a lack of clarity on who should operate the streetlights. In fact it is not only women’s safety which is at risk, lack of streetlights is identified as a major reason for road accidents on many roads in Bengaluru. Motorists and pedestrians are facing problems even on recently widened roads.
For instance, a techie had a nightmarish experience in Koramangala 5th block. Noticing her walking alone on a dimly-lit road at around 9.30 p.m., a cab driver attempted to assault her but she managed to raise an alarm, fight back and get the culprit arrested, says Vidyarashmi, resident of Koramangala. Many such incidents at isolated places where there is lack of light remain unreported.
The roads to Bangalore University and Nagarbhavi are not properly lit. It is time for BBMP and Bescom to step in and take corrective steps according to Mahesh, a resident of Nagarabhavi. Several women even consider it unsafe getting off the metro at MG Road and walking towards Shivajinagar and vice-versa, or moving from Anil Kumble Circle to BRV Junction along General Cariappa Memorial Park and on the various skywalk across the city due to inadequate street lights.
Former Deputy Mayor of BBMP Bhadrappa says that the Palike spends around Rs 12 crore every month and around Rs 200 crore annually on electricity charges for streetlights, including their operation and maintenance costs.
The BBMP had conducted a joint survey with the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) and identified 8,053 hazardous streetlight locations when Manjunathprasad was the BBMP commissioner. All these problems were resolved during his tenure, he added.
It’s not only Bengaluru, even Mysuru is not safe. The 42 km stretch of the ORR in Mysuru city glows only for nine days during the Dasara festivities and plunges into darkness for the remaining period with a row over installation of streetlights, their operation and maintenance remaining unsettled between Mysuru Urban Development Authority, Mysuru City Corporation and NHAI which developed this ORR....