New Delhi - Three suicides in just two months. In a city where stress runs high, Delhi Metro tracks seem to have become the lodestone for those looking to end their lives in the anonymity of the thousands of footfalls passing through busy stations.
Just a week ago, on March 6, a 22-year-old youth jumped on to the track before a running train at the Mayur Vihar Phase I Metro station in east Delhi. Four days before that, on March 2, another 24-year-old man committed suicide by jumping on to the tracks at the Chandni Chowk station.
There were two similar incidents in February and two in January. While three were rescued in time, a 21-year-old woman who had jumped off the platform at the Preet Vihar Metro station in east Delhi after an argument with her boyfriend on Valentine's day couldn't be saved.
Following the tragedy, which police said occurred because of the spat, the memories return to haunt her friend. Declining to be named, he said it was punishment for him to walk past the platform every day.
"I can't forget what happened. Whenever I pass the platform and the Metro railing from where she jumped, it comes back to me," said the teen, gazing emptily at the spot from where his friend jumped to her death.
Psychiatrists say the trend is not just unfortunate but unavoidable.
"Most of the time, a person takes the extreme step of committing suicide in an instant. And in a place that is easily accessible like a train track. Even the media plays a role in setting a trend of a particular place becoming a suicide point, like a Metro station," said Dr. Puneet Dwivedi, a psychiatrist.
According to police, about five suicide attempts take place on Metro stations every year. The last few months have seen a jump in the numbers, with seven cases being reported since December.
"There is an increase in the suicide attempts in the Metro stations, particularly in the past couple of months," Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime and Railways) B.S. Gurjar told IANS.
"Apart from increasing vigil and deputing more security guards, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) can install platform screen doors (PSD). That can at least be a step to ensure safety of commuters," Gurjar suggested.
PSDs are automatic glass doors installed at the platform to keep passengers away from the track. All six Metro stations of the high-speed 23-km Airport Metro have PSDs.
Cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Paris have installed PSDs at most stations.
DMRC officials, however, believe that PSDs are no solution.
"The PSDs can just ensure safety of commuters, but it can't stop suicide attempts. It is not that every suicide attempt is made by jumping on the Metro track; at times many try to fall from the platforms or railings, which are 20 to 25 feet above the ground level," a Delhi Metro official told IANS.
Delhi Metro chief Mangu Singh had recently said there were plans to install PSDs at two of the busiest interchange stations - Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate - by the end of this year.
"Installing PSDs is costly and it has more chances of software snags in the Metro system. We need to think over it before installing it," an official said.
The problem of urban angst leading to suicides goes beyond the facts.
"Most of the time, suicide attempts are foiled by train operators. About 125 lives have been saved by our train drivers since 2003 by applying emergency brakes. While recruiting train operators, we
conduct a psychometric test to detect their alertness," a senior Metro official said.