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Women run into male hurdle at check-naka

Women travelling past the Dahisar check-naka have been facing a tough time lately.

Women travelling past the Dahisar check-naka have been facing a tough time lately. Dozens of fast-food stalls that have mushroomed here, put out benches for its customers who sit drinking through the evening and harass passing women. As most autorickshaw drivers from Mumbai refuse to ply across the check-naka, travellers are forced to alight at the Dahisar-end and walk several metres before they can board another auto at Kashimira. Last week, the local police carried out a raid and booked some of the stall-owners and their customers but the situation hasn't changed much.

Says Ankita Mulye who works in a private firm at Malad, "I shifted my residence to Mira Road three months ago. Whenever I get late at work, I take an auto home to avoid getting into a crowded train. But I dread getting off at Dahisar check-naka to change the auto as groups of men eating and drinking at the stalls make lewd gestures and pass nasty comments.''

Another regular traveller Chetana Gupta says, "The men keep staring and laughing loudly as we pass. There are no police personnel around to come to our rescue and we have no choice but to keep walking fast and ignore the comments. The situation is worst after 8 pm.''

The area has become popular among taxi/auto drivers and daily wage earners as the stall-owners sell cheap snacks, fish and Chinese food. A wine shop located nearby provides liquor. "Sitting on benches at the street corner and drinking in public is illegal. We will carry out an inspection at this place,'' joint commissioner (excise) A B Ghatol said.

"There are at least a hundred customers at the food-joints every evening. I don't let my wife and daughters travel alone on this stretch after dusk as I've seen the men whistle and sometimes stalk women passersby,'' says Mira Road resident Daniel Paul. "The Kashimira chowky is located only a stone's throw away but these men are unfazed.''

Last week, a team from the Dahisar police station rounded up a dozen customers from the food-stalls and booked them for misbehaviour under provisions of the Bombay Police Act. A fine of Rs 1,200 was slapped on them and those who failed to pay up, had to spend a night in the lock-up. The stall-owners were also penalised Rs 5,000 each for operating without a valid licence. But cops admit that the customers at these food-joints are a floating crowd, which is difficult to control.

According to RTO rules, autorickshaws from Mumbai are supposed to ply till the auto-stand in Kashimira - which is across the Dahisar check-naka - but they seldom do so. Senior inspector P V Mathadhikari of the Borivli traffic outpost said he would plan a joint operation with the Dahisar police to crack down on errant auto drivers.