CHENNAI: Everything seems to be fine for women commuters at the Nungambakkam station — noisy conversations, unhurried walks and, in the evening hours, the relief of an impending weekend. But as the clock ticks past 9 pm and the crowd begins thinning, paces quicken, sights firmly fixed on the foot overbridge.
A year after the brazen daylight murder of Swathi, a 24-year-old techie, regular commuters say, if it were to happen again, there is little anyone can do to prevent it. “I have been a regular on this route for six years.
If my husband or I have a feud with someone and that person decides to hack me when I take the train, what will stop him? What will the police do after it happens? The same wild goose chase,” said Sharmila KG, who travels from Tambaram to her workplace in Mehta Nagar, Nungambakkam.
According to railway authorities, work to install 24 CCTV cameras — four rotating and 20 stationary — is underway although none of them has been installed. While a CCTV control room has been allocated, its time has yet to come.
Although there is a sole RPF personnel from the Mambalam station on night duty, women commuters said it barely helps.
“The sight of an RPF personnel can be incredibly reassuring when you travel alone but on the platforms, I rarely see them on patrol,” said Rishika Nair, a graphic designer.
Although most say that they have managed to put the gruesome images of the murder in the back of their mind by now, they crop up from time to time.
“For 15 days after the murder, I refused to take the train or come anywhere near the station. I do now but even then, when I sometimes get down after 9.30 pm I can’t help but remember the incident,” said Akila Aravindan who works in T Nagar.
Their own safety aside, some said they also sometimes take a moment or two to remember Swathi, who would have turned 25 this year. “When I’m waiting for the train, I occasionally think of her. Could she have sat here on the bench where I’m sitting? Could she have been standing there when it happened? Things like that,” said Pavithra P, who runs an event management company in T Nagar.
When she gets off the train, sometimes at 9 pm or later, after work, the first thing Suvarna P does, is to look for another woman. The one good thing about the station, however, is that you almost always find one.
“You are relieved for some time but then what if there are people around. There were people around when Swathi was murdered too, weren’t they?” she adds.