VIZIANAGARAM: Boarding an auto-rickshaw to reach interior villages in Vizianagaram district during nights or late evenings has become a nightmare for women. The recent rape of a 24-year-old physically challenged woman has once again brought the issue of ‘criminal’ auto drivers plying their vehicles. This is not for the first time that Vizianagaram district has witnessed incidents of auto drivers targeting lonely woman and attempted to rape them at isolated places.
Despite a number of such incidents in the past, the district administration is yet to take action. On October 25, 2017, an auto driver, in an inebriated condition, had allegedly misbehaved and attempted to rape two siblings near Komatipalle area of Bobbili police station limits in Vizianagaram. The incident took place when the two girls had boarded an auto to reach their native village from Bobbili after shopping. The auto driver even tried to beat up the girls. In December 2016, an 11-yearold girl studying Class V, was allegedly sexually assaulted by an auto driver under Kothavalasa police station limits in the district.
When the girl resisted, the auto driver assaulted her on the head and face with a brick and fled. The injured girl was found by a motorist on the way and he alerted the police as well as the victim’s parents. Similarly, there are a few more incidents of auto drivers committing such crimes. There are also incidents of auto drivers misbehaved with women in rural areas.
According to sources, many women from interior villages of Poosapatirega, Bhogapuram and Kothavalasa come to Vizianagaram for work, shopping, medical needs, schools, colleges etc. Due to lack of frequent availability of RTC buses, many board auto to return home. Sources said that during late evenings or nights, some auto drivers take advantage of women travelling alone by trying to force themselves on them. Many roads to interior villages do not have proper security and the traffic movement gets thin after 7 pm.
Commuters say that the frequency of buses is very poor to the interior regions and moreover after evenings, routes to some areas do not have proper lighting, where women tend to board the first available auto. “Some auto drivers after consuming alcohol, target lonely women. In some cases, they commit crime mostly with their friends in an inebriated condition,” said a senior police officer from Vizianagaram rural. The district witnessed as many as 85 rape cases in the last two years. In 2017, as many as 46 rape cases were reported, while in 2016, 33 cases were reported. Till date this year six cases were registered. On the menace of auto drivers, Vizianagaram SP G Pala Raju said that they had been conducting interactive meets with the unions of auto-rickshaw drivers regularly.