Despite the extreme heat above ground, growing traffic and overcrowded streets, citizens are reluctant to go down the subways as one glance towards the entrance ticks a familiar sense of paranoia — ‘too dark, dingy, desolate,’ as one user put it.
Patriot took a deep dive into the maze as we spent a day navigating through these subways in CP and talked to two female security guards, Sunita and Vimla, who are dedicated to keeping these subways safe — at least until their shift ends.
“We do not stay in these subways beyond 6 pm usually”, the guards say. The timing coincides with the usual sunset hours. They also add that these subways don’t have CCTVs and the gates of these routes are closed after 9 pm.
Male security guards stay on duty from 6 pm till 7 am, after which the female guards take over. The male guards say that incidents of fights between homeless men are common in these subways. “We often see men with bleeding faces and blade scratches on their body around these routes. It is a common spot for drunkards and drug addicts to lurk in”, the guards add.
Describing his eerie experience in one such subway, Srajit, studying for his Master’s, tells the Patriot about how it made him rethink his safety as a man in Delhi.
“The lights were blinking in a very weird manner. It was almost surreal because nobody else was there. Though I am ostensibly from the male demographic that makes the streets of Delhi unsafe, it made me think of how creepy these situations can get even for men.”
He sees the lack of importance given to the safety of pedestrians as a big reason behind this issue.
“The focus has always been on making the roads more car-friendly instead of making the city more accessible to pedestrians or the disabled. The road has become inaccessible to the walking person.”
One such subway faces the famous Statesman building. The Barakhamba subway has escalators but they are non-functional, as is the case with all other subway escalators that should be serving those with physical disabilities. Inside, lights are hardly enough to keep the subway well-lit.
Between 5:20 pm to 6:10 pm, only 25 people – five of whom are women — crossed through this pass. Among these women, three were accompanied by a man and only two happened to be walking alone. No children, no senior citizens, no persons with disabilities. With no signs of a security guard even after 6 pm, it became clear that the subway would barely see any sign of quantifiable life.
Patriot tried reaching out to the New Delhi Traders Association president for the area to know why these underpasses remain dysfunctional, desolate and unused in CP, but received no response from their end.
When we asked the two female guards if they have noticed any changes regarding safety in these subways over the years, they say, “It used to be worse some two years ago. But now, we have these lights and the gates close down after a certain time.”
“Many women are seen crossing through these subways now.”
The situation underneath remains grim. The comments of shoppers only raise more questions about the need to close down the subways at night or end the women guards’ shift after 6 pm in a city where roads are busy all night.
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