KOLKATA, 11 AUG: A park near City Centre in Salt Lake, which township residents successfully prevented from being turned into a parking lot, has now become a den of eve-teasers.
In 2008, residents living in several blocks near City Centre protested plans to construct a multi-level parking lot on the 63-cottah green patch called Residency Park. It was constructed along with the shopping mall in 2003. The project was finally dropped, but the civic authorities have neglected the park.
While paths on the park’s four sides are well lit, the entire centre of the park, lacking lighting, is plunged into darkness as soon as the sun goes down. The park has become a favourite haunt for couples wanting a place to get intimate, and drunk men, who leave bars in and around City Centre go to the park to watch these couples sitting together. This means that women who walk down the path in the evening are faced with lewd comments and teasing.
Ms Shilpi Sinha, a resident of CA Block, was shocked when three men on a bike sped past her, calling her names. Ms Sinha was going to an ATM opposite Bidhannagar College with her younger brother. “When I looked around after the men screamed abuse at me, I saw a group at the tea stall laughing. I fled the place to save myself from further embarrassment.”
Ms Nita Haldar, a 34-year-old resident of CD Block, had a similar experience, when she was touched inappropriately by a man who cycled past her on the same stretch. Before she could react, the man fled the scene. “I looked to see whether a police kiosk was nearby. But when I found one, it was locked. I didn’t go to the police station as I didn’t want the hassle,” she said.
Mr Ashesh Mukherjee, councillor of the ward and chairman of the Bidhannagar Municipality’s resource mobilisation committee, said that eight sodium vapour lights would soon be installed in the park. Mrs Krishna Chakraborty, municipality chairman, said that she would talk to the police administration about the issue.
The police said that plain-clothes policemen and women constables are deployed in Salt Lake, including City Centre, to deal with these issues. Their presence, however, is hardly ever felt.
Previous reports of eve-teasing led the police to put up three kiosks near the mall, but locals said that none of them is manned. The police also said that they often pick up youths who are making trouble near the park during routine patrols, but then let them off with a warning.