The sexual assault on a 13-year-old boy at the old Margao railway station area on Monday night has brought into sharp focus the rise in anti-social and criminal activities in the locality. The area in and around the old railway station and the slum areas on the Aquem-end of the Konkan Railway station have turned out to be safe havens for anti-social elements.
While there have been cases of innocents being waylaid and robbed of their cash and ornaments in the area, locals point out that drunken brawls and prostitution activities are an everyday occurrence. As the old railway station premises is virtually deserted, vagabonds, beggars, prostitutes, homeless labourers, and others are found taking shelter at the old railway station during the day and night, turning the area into an unsafe place for the residents of the locality.
The foot over bridge near the old railway station-the area where the 13-year-old child was sexually assaulted on Monday night-is often found to be plunged in darkness on account of the absence of adequate street lighting. "Leave aside women, even decent people hesitate to walk past this area or use the foot over bridge for fear of anti-social elements lurking in the locality," local shopkeeper Navin Fondekar said.
At the Aquem-end of the Konkan Railway station, sources pointed out that anti-social elements regularly take shelter in the open space in front of the government primary school during the night and mess up the place. Liquor bottles, empty cigarette packs, syringes, used condoms, are often found near the school premises. Hutment dwellers and homeless migrants are often found cooking in the open space right in front of the primary school building. Locals complain that eve-teasing is rampant and lewd remarks are always passed on women walking along the road.
Speaking to TOI, school PTA chairman Pundalik Ganachari said that parents have brought this to the notice of the authorities and even wrote to the education department highlighting the security concerns of the parents, but to no avail. "We have stressed on the need to have a compound wall for the school so that the students can study in a secure environment. We are yet to get any reply to our correspondence," Ganachari said.
What has added to the concern of the parents is the absence of an access road for the school. A proposed 10m wide road from the rear side of the Madgaum Urban Cooperative bank, Aquem leading up to Apollo hospital, Margao is also shown in the Margao ODP.
"The road if constructed could, besides serving as the access to the school, also provide the much needed secure environment for the children. Students presently have to walk along a pathway to get to the school. Police also need to intensify night patrolling along the road from Apollo hospital to the Konkan Railway station (Aquem-end) as people fear to walk along this road out of fear, as there have been many cases of people being assaulted and robbed during the night," MMC councilor Avinash Shirodkar said.
Hemant Kavlekar, who resides next to the primary school, also voiced his anxiety over the "scary" situation prevailing in the area after sunset. "Nobody knows what's going on there. One can find many motorcycles and a number of cars, too, parked in the open space, during late evening hours. Fights often take place through the night disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood. Robbers often take this route to escape with their booty as the area is shrouded in darkness," Kavlekar told TOI.
'Together for Margao' president Vinayak Mordekar said they have convened a meeting of the association with a view to exert pressure on the authorities about the need to put in place security measures in the area, especially around the primary school premises.
Police officials maintained that the area has been under their radar. Speaking to TOI, DySP Mohan Naik said police randomly round up suspicious-looking characters found loitering in the area.
"Police have also booked charges against persons who were found in possession of ganja in the area. We have intensified night patrolling there," Naik said.
Collector calls for meeting to discuss security
Taking cognizance of the rise in anti-social activities in the area, on Wednesday south Goa collector N D Agrawal along with senior police officials inspected the foot over bridge and the old railway station area to take stock of the situation.
Speaking to TOI later, Agrawal observed that there was inadequate maintenance of the footbridge and that he has convened a meeting of all concerned authorities-PWD, Margao municipal council, electricity department, officials of Konkan Railway Corporation (KRC) and South Western Railway (SWR) and police-on Friday to thrash out all issues regarding maintenance and security.
Agrawal said that though KRC was required to hand over the foot over bridge to the state PWD post construction, it has not been officially transferred so far.
As regards the misuse of the old railway station premises, Agrawal said he has already written to SWR to hand over the premises to KRC so that it could be put to better use. [TOI]