Hyderabad: In November 2019, a 27-year-old veterinary doctor was brutally raped and murdered near Tondupally toll gate in Shamshabad. The woman who had parked her vehicle in a dark road on the outskirts of the city came back a few minutes later to find her tyres punctured. The men who had punctured her vehicle and had tactfully left her stuck on a lonely, dark road at night later took her to an isolated place and raped and murdered her. A streetlight on that road would have perhaps made her feel more secure and would have saved her life.
There are several roads/areas in the city that are poorly lit like the ESIC Khajaguda Talab road that does not even have a single working streetlight; the Lanco Hills Road; Lakshmi Nagar colony road (Kothapet); Kondapur, Manikonda, Kothaguda,…
Lack of streetlights is not just dangerous for pedestrians but also for people who take public transport. "These Uber drivers often take you through dark, narrow lanes saying it is a shortcut," says Natasha, a resident of Begumpet. "And what happens if a public transport breaks down in the middle of a narrow, dark road?" asks Jasmine, a resident of the city who actively raises such issues.
There are roads like the one along Ace Atlantic Apartments in Khajaguda where there is not even a streetlight pole, points out Jasmine.
Waterlogging, open drains, potholes, dark roads
Lack of streetlights is more dangerous during the rainy season. With no lights, people tend to slip and fall into open drains, get stuck in potholes, get swept away in waterlogged and inundated areas. There have been several incidents in the city where people have fallen into open drains due to lack of lighting in the area and have lost their lives.
Dark, narrow lanes
While the main roads of the city have streetlights, it's the inner roads and smaller lanes that are void of lights. "But that's exactly where you need them," says Natasha. "On main roads, there are a lot of people around, mostly, so you feel less scared. But in the inner roads, there is hardly any human movement and you feel intimidated," she explains.
No streetlights, unsafe for women
"Mostly, I try not to go out at night," says Natasha. "When I am returning home late at night, I worry, I feel unsafe. But if there is a street light, I feel a bit more secure," she adds. Many women like Natasha think twice before stepping out of their homes at night.
Narrating her fear of returning after Manthan programmes at Vidyaranya school, Natasha explains, "There are two ways one can reach the Lakdi ka pul railway station from Vidyaranya school. While there are fears of slipping over blocks along the first route, the second is poorly lit and terrifying." She recalls similar experiences while returning from Lamakaan as well.
Response from the administration
From power supply by the Telangana Southern Power Distribution Company of Limited (TSSPDCL) to the pole erection and wiring done by municipal authorities to the fixing of streetlights by the Energy Efficiency Service Limited (EESL), there are multiple agencies involved in the installation of streetlights. "The EESL is very efficient and prompt, but unfortunately they are responsible only for fixtures," says Srinivas Bellam, an advocate of civic amenities in the city.
People also complain about cases where the GHMC waves off their complaints with lame excuses. "When a complaint is filed regarding non-functioning of streetlights, the reply we get is, there is no ladder available," says Nizamuddin Hyder, a resident of Moula Ali.
The response has been inconsistent, notes Jasmine. "They come and fix it, but it goes off again by the evening," she adds.
Another common issue faced is the confusion over the jurisdiction in which the streetlights fall. This also causes unnecessary delays in fixing the issue.
The city should approach the safety of women more holistically. "Groups like the She Team should initiate integrated efforts like patrolling at nights, identifying places where there are no streetlights, and ensuring that these places are made safer for women," says Natasha.