Alok Ghosh was jolted out of his sleep on Friday morning by a message blaring on the public address system. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the speakers installed in my flat — that three dead bodies were lying inside our complex and we should go at once to the Tower I lobby if anyone in our family had gone missing,” said the 51-year-old resident of Tower III of South City apartments.
It was much later that police identified the bodies of the three outsiders, who had apparently jumped to their death from the terrace of Tower I, but life in the tallest residential complex in town, spread over 26.5 acres with 1,600 flats, could have changed overnight.
Prasanta Banerjee, a security sub-committee member of the South City Apartment Owners’ Association, was woken up at 2.35am by one of the security personnel calling on his landline. He alerted the other association members, called up Jadavpur police station and went running with bedsheets and saris to cover the bodies.
“I shuddered at the sight and felt sick,” said the 49-year-old resident of Tower II.
To speed up the process of identification, the police clicked one of the women on a mobile phone camera and got a printout. They then started knocking on each door and showing the photograph to residents of the Tower. When little progress was made, it was decided to use the internal public address system.
“There has been an accident inside the housing complex. Three women have fallen from the terrace of Tower I. If anyone has any information about the identity of the three women or if anyone is missing from your home please come to the ground floor lobby of Tower I and meet the police,” was the chilling message.
The bodies were sent for post-mortem around 6.30am, after which the cops pasted the printout on a pillar on the ground floor of Tower I for people to identify.
“What were the security guys doing?” was the immediate reaction from most residents.
There are supposed to be 130 security guards for the towers and 30 more to man the parking lot in three shifts.
“According to the security protocol, it is mandatory for the guards to establish contact with residents over the video door phones when visitors arrive, but the instruments are lying dysfunctional in almost all the apartments,” said Sabir Azhari, a resident of Tower II. “A guard is also supposed to visit the terrace every four hours and check. If all that was done, the tragedy may have been averted,” he added.
The incident has probably shaken up senior citizens the most. “We are completely dependant on the security system here and what happened on Thursday night shows that anyone can just walk into the premises and stay put for hours without their movements being monitored,” said a 70-year-old lady.
Friday’s tragedy blew open the doors of this gated community and prompted a scramble to plug the security loopholes.
“We have 8 CCTVs in the lobbies of each of the four towers. We have decided to install CCTVs on all the floors, and in the parking lots, basements, parks and even community halls,” said Debasis Das Sarkar, the property manager.
I am unnerved by how three women could simply walk into this residential area, climb up to the terrace and jump to their death. There are problems with the basic security system in a place like South City, which is spread over such a large area.... We don’t have CCTVs on the different floors and in sensitive spots like the terrace. People gain entry by merely mentioning a resident’s name or flat number, without any verification.... There should also be an immediate check on the guesthouses operating within South City.
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, film-maker and resident of Tower I