By A. Jeyaraj
In response to the letter from Panirchelvam (Ipoh Echo, Feb 1-15 2017), I visited the subway on an evening with Panir and our photographer. A middle-aged man was sitting at the entrance. There was a bit of garbage along the entrance, otherwise the place was relatively clean. It was smelly at the base of the stairway. About half of the fluorescent lights on the wall were not working and the place was rather dark. The lights on the ceiling were not switched on.
While we were inspecting, a girl walked down the stairs from the station side and we spoke to her. She said that she is teaching in Slim River and travels daily and uses the subway because it is a shortcut. When it is late she waits for someone to come along and follows them. Since it is smelly she carries balm with her to smell. She comes across drug addicts and so far they have not disturbed her.
R. Manogaran, a retiree who goes to the Maha Ganapathy Temple which is across the road from the entrance said that he has seen up to about five addicts in the area. They use the toilets in the temple and since the toilets are for the public, no one stops them. A few of the cars parked in front of the temple have been broken into, but it cannot be confirmed as the work of the addicts.
I visited the place at different times, excluding nights, to assess the situation. At times the place was clean, dry and not smelly. At other times there was litter at the entrance and smelly at the bottom of the stairway. During rainy weather, sections of the floor and stairways were wet. Most of the time I see a middle-aged man sitting at the concrete sidewall at the entrance. Apart from meeting the teacher, during my other visits I did not come across anyone using the subway. Very few people know of its existence.
I spoke to Mohd Zahrin, the Station Master and he said that he was aware of the problems and action is being taken. Auxiliary Police are to patrol the subway and the CCTV is monitored by the police. I informed him that only one CCTV is installed at the station side and a second one has to be installed at the other end. Two-way mirrors has to be installed so that people can see whether any one is using the subway. All the lights must be working. I told him that KTM has to publicise the existence of this entrance. If many passengers start using this entrance, then the traffic jam in front of the station can be reduced.
Zahrin informed me that vagrants sleep in the main hall at night and he calls the Welfare Department to take them away. He added that they return in a few days.
After meeting Zahrin, I spoke to a couple of KTM staff and they said that they never use the subway at night. They said that passengers have been robbed and threatened at knife point by addicts. To them this is not new and asked why I am raising the issue now.
I think to solve the problem permanently, KTM must contact NGOs like Victory Life Centre which carries out rehabilitation of drug addicts. They can take the addicts to their centre and counsel them. Welfare Department must put the vagrants in homes from which they cannot leave. If the addicts are just chased away they would cause problems in another place.
This is Visit Perak Year and we must not expose our social ills to the tourists.