Valpoi weekly market day raises issues of students’ safety


 The recent incidents of rape, molestations and attempted kidnapping and others, where schoolgirls have fallen victims, have created a furor in the state and have parents and guardians of children on their toes. It is the focal point of almost every conversation at various meetings and at restaurants and tea stalls. In Valpoi town, if the safety of students is a concern, then the Valpoi Municipal Council (VMC) has to take a few precautionary measures to ensure safety of the children.
It may be recalled that the VMC had shifted the location of the weekly Tuesday market to the road leading towards the VMC ground, which is proving to be matter of concern as far as the safety of children is concerned.
Nearly 150 vegetable, fruit and other vendors, that do business here on the weekly Tuesday market day, erect their structures on either side of the road. This road also passes via Fatima Convent School. Besides this school the area itself is the educational hub of Valpoi, where the Government Middle School, the ADEI office, Government Higher Secondary and the National High School are located.
The recent cases that have been highlighted in the media have led to the schools putting some concrete security measures in place; however, unfortunately, in Valpoi, though the children are quite safe in schools, once they leave the premises, they do not have the same safety cover due to the crowded street on the market day. The students have to use this crowded road to come to school as well as while going back home, where vendors from all over the state carry out business and the area is crowded and noisy.
Another challenge many residents of Valpoi brought to the notice was the road leading to the Amshekar hospital, which is located just after the Fatima Convent School, as this road too is used for transacting business and it is nearly impossible for ambulances to use the road in times of emergencies. Neither are any police personnel stationed here to man the traffic nor are police seen in the area to keep an eye on the security of school children as they come to and go from school. This leaves the area open for culprits to carry out their nefarious activities and parents fear for the safety and well being of their children.
The chairperson of the VMC, Mr Ramdas Shirodkar, when contacted over this issue, informed this reporter that the council is aware of the situation and had even conducted an inspection of the site. He informed that the vendors on the stretch of L-shaped road from Fatima Convent School till Amshekar hospital will be made free and the vendors will be allotted space near the VMC ground opposite the Bal Bhavan.
He said, "Due to space constraint we hold the weekly market on this road stretch; however, after evaluating the situation the VMC has verbally requested the Valpoi police to deploy some police personnel near the school on the weekly market day. We will discuss the issue in the council meeting and arrive at the best alternative location for the weekly market to avoid any untoward incident and I will issue a letter requesting the Valpoi police to station police personnel in the area immediately."
A few parents were of the opinion that there should be at least two male police personnel and atleast one female police personnel stationed at the area.
The Valpoi police inspector, Mr Ramesh Gaonker, when contacted over the phone said that police personnel patrol the areas near every school; however, due to shortage of staff they find it difficult to provide personnel all the time as the police have their own set of duties to perform. He however assured that his staff will be more vigilant near the schools which are located in the market area.
Mr Gaonker also said that the school management, parents, teachers and the local authorities have to extend their assistance in ensuring the safety of students. He said besides security guards at the gates of the schools, there should also be CCTV cameras installed. He said parents should also educate their children not to talk to strangers and not to accept gifts and sweets from them and should also tell the child to approach the police in case of any untoward incident. [NT]