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Goons on prowl at hangouts
Lack of security scares couples

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 17: Lovers snuggling up on park benches or tucked away on a hillside to steal some moments of togetherness are increasingly becoming sitting ducks for troublemakers because of lax security provisions at several hangouts on the city outskirts.

Apart from being harassed by right-wing activists on Valentine’s Day, young couples feel goons rule the roost at places such as the Khandagiri-Udayagiri hills, botanical garden at Nandankanan, Dhauli Peace Pagoda and Shikharchandi hills.

Though these incidents have not been reported to the police, youngsters say incidents of being mugged, assaulted and threatened were common at these sites.

“Local people near Nandankanan botanic garden often bully young couples and even extort money from them. On one occasion, goons snatched my friend’s gold chain and tried to molest her. They beat me up when I resisted them. But we did not lodge a complaint fearing that the matter may come to our parents’ notice,” said Ronit Saxena, an MBA student.

He added that the lack of adequate security arrangements at such hangouts have given the goons an upper hand.

A young couple cosying up at the Dhauli Peace Pagoda last week had a harrowing experience as local goons chased them away from the place.

“Some of them abused us and tried to assault us. But we managed to escape unhurt. There should be enough security to ensure free movement of visitors at these places,” said the couple, who study at a local engineering college and stay in a hostel on the campus.

Government employee Subhasish Panda said one of his relatives had recently been assaulted at Dhauli where he had gone to spend “some nice time” with his girlfriend.

“The precious moment of togetherness soon turned into a nightmare as some local youths attacked him and took away his expensive mobile phone and cash. He has vowed never to visit that place again,’’ said Panda, a resident of Nayapalli.

Senior police officers said though they were aware that such incidents took place at these spots, they were yet to receive any formal complaint.

“We have only received complaints regarding issues relating to confrontation between picnic groups at these spots. The cases relating to attack on or harassment of young couples never get registered as they feel scared and shy,’’ said a senior cop.

The Nandankanan authorities said they had their personnel deployed inside the botanical garden, but admitted that it was not always possible to keep a watch on young couples who often escaped to distant areas.

However, majority of these hangouts were without any security guards and police rarely visited them, which gave criminals an advantage.

Interestingly, parks managed by the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) are manned by nearly 150 security guards.

Though security guards also keep vigil at many other parks in the city, they prefer to remain mere spectators in adverse situations, couples say.

“To avoid untoward incidents, we close our parks from 10am to 4pm,’’ said chief horticulturist of BDA Ashok N. Dhar. Even at parks with entry tickets, security guards have not been able to keep a complete control on goons.

Youngsters coming to Ekamra Kanan, the botanical garden of the Regional Plant Resource Centre and a lovers’ paradise in Nayapalli area, said troublemakers often recorded their intimate moments.

Mahila police had arrested four youths in 2011 for allegedly recording the intimate scenes of one of their friends with his girlfriend.

“Whenever we get any complaint, we take action against the accused. Our police team conducts patrolling inside the parks regularly,” said a senior officer of Mahila police station.