With the Chennai Central railway station recently going on high alert following a terror threat, is the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) equally well protected? We decide to check it out.
Station: INDIRA NAGAR | Time: 11.20 PM
The last train has departed but the station’s door is open.
As we step in, we expect somebody to track our intrusion, confront us. No such thing happens. We enter the station and look around. No cop in sight. No closed circuit TV camera (CCTV) either. They have been installed at suburban stations for surveillance following the Vyasarpadi Jiva incident when an unknown person hijacked a local train — EMU — and rammed it into a stationery goods train killing seven persons. MRTS is part of the suburban service, but perhaps not important enough for CCTV installation. We move on.
At the platform, there is some activity. A bunch of drunkards and vagabonds are squatting on the platform. Others are sleeping, some even snoring. Time to take snaps. But when my colleague pulls out his camera, they suddenly get suspicious. They protest and ask us to buzz off. Zilch security here, but surely other MRTS stations would be protected? We decide to check them out the next day.
Station: CHEPAUK | Time: 8.55 PM
Except for the staff at the Station Master’s office and a few passengers near the platform, the place appears deserted.
No Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel to regulate entry. A group of four in rags ambles in. We ask them why they are here. “We are not passengers. We have come to spend some time here,” says one of them. He has no intention to explain what he means by “spending time”.
A railway employee who prefers to remain anonymous, says, “This place is scary. Even during the day it is unsafe because there is no security. Anything can happen at any time.” We agree and move on.
Station: TIRUVALLIKENI | Time: 9.15 PM
The dark corridors and dimly lit passages at the station make it seem like a place straight out of a horror movie.
People lugging bundles are trickling in. Most of them are from the nearby slum. The bundles are their bedrolls and the station the bedroom.
Some drunkards are nagging a transgender for sex. She somehow shakes them off. “Unlike other places, there are no guards here. There is tight police patrolling on the Marina and Besant Nagar beaches, so the flesh trade happens here,” the transgender informs. But flesh trade is not why she is here, or so she claims. “I only came in search of a safe place to sleep.” When my colleague starts shooting pictures, the tipplers squirm and ask him not to do so. “You look like respectable people. This is not a place for you at this hour of night,” one of them growls. We take the hint and move on.
Station: KASTURBA NAGAR | Time: 10.10 PM
The station is on the IT corridor. The last train to Chennai Beach is expected at 10.30 pm, but the station lights are already being switched off. Casual labourers at construction sites as well as others, who prefer not to reveal their identity, are thronging the place. Some of them agree that they are not passengers.
Station: THIRUVANMIYUR | Time: 10.55 PM
The last train towards Beach is just departing. There is not even an iota of security at the station. The by-now-familiar sight of people aimlessly moving around who intend to sleep on the platform greets us. Thoroughly shaken up by our experience, we depart.