CHENNAI: A chain-snatching incident inside a moving lift at the Chepauk station on the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) a week ago has not only reinforced the notion that the MRTS is unsafe but also scared commuters away from that station premises.
Doordarshan employee Swarnamalaya Dhandapani (58) was waiting for a lift at the basement of the Chepauk station when it arrived with a young man on board. As he stayed put, she joined him. When the lift began its ascent, Dhandapani asked him why he had not stepped out at the basement. In response, he whipped out a knife, snatched her eight sovereign gold chain and slipped out in a flash as soon as the lift stopped at the ground floor. Before the stunned Dhandapani could gather her wits together and raise an alarm, the doors closed and the lift started moving again.
By the time she managed to draw the attention of the people, the man had fled. Besides, there were hardly 25 people in the sprawling station building at that time.
After the news spread by word of mouth, many regular commuters — most of them working in the offices close to the Chepauk station like VSNL, Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati and Kuralagam — stopped using the Chepauk station.
“Many regular MRTS users, who were earlier boarding the train at Chepauk, now walk or take autorickshaws to the Chintadripet station. It is a slightly longer journey but it is better than being mugged in a deserted station,” said Parvathy, whose office is on Swami Sivananda Salai.
This was the first recorded case of chain snatching on the MRTS premises this year. If you go by the record books, there was just one incident of chain snatching and two of bag lifting at MRTS stations last year. But records often fail to paint the real picture.
On July 7 last year, Express had pointed out that the MRTS network was a sitting duck as most of it stations were not just deserted, they were also ill-lit and had turned into a den of lumpen elements.
There has been no improvement in the overall security situation. In fact, many elderly people are apprehensive of using it after 8.30 pm.
Besides, robbers have been found hiding at MRTS stations, a police officer said.
On an average, over one-lakh passengers use the MRTS services daily. It is the job of the Egmore Railway police station to provide security. But their total strength is just around 100.
Their brief includes providing VVIP cover, platform security at major stations and guarding suburban and MRTS stations.
Granted, 68 Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel have been deployed at MRTS stations, but their role is limited to protecting railway property.
A senior officer said that a proposal submitted to the government and the railways seeking sanction of one sub-inspector and eight police personnel for each MRTS station, has been pending clearance for a long time.