Bengal’s showpiece township will have cafes and bookstores that stay open till late in the night as part of a strategy suggested by IIT Kharagpur to keep the streets from getting desolate and unsafe once the office crowd melts. “A large number of people working in the IT sector in New Town, Rajarhat, are women. They suffer from a sense of insecurity, particularly when they return home from their workplaces, even though the township offers reasonably good policing and lighting. The solution suggested by IIT Kharagpur is for the deserted stretches,” additional chief secretary Debashis Sen, who is also the chairperson of Hidco, said on the sidelines of an official programme. Hidco intends to set up the cafes and bookstores in action areas II and III of New Town, which is where most of the IT offices are located. “The idea is that more we increase the after-work options, higher the footfall and hence a more social and safer place,” Sen said. Hidco had engaged IIT Kharagpur last December for a study to find out what people feel about living and working in New Town. One of the sore points that emerged was that working women feel insecure stepping out after dusk in a township that is still a work in progress. Sen said the feedback had helped the authorities come out with a multi-pronged plan to address the issues facing New Town. The idea of having cafes and bookstores also came up at a roundtable he attended last week. “I was in Mumbai for an event of the Asian Institute of Banking Infrastructure and one of the speakers there said that a means to ensure security of women in cities was to have more coffee shops, bars and other utilities along roads. I think this is lateral innovative thinking. We are doing the same thing,” Sen said. Hidco plans to start one such hangout zone near City Centre New Town, which is already a happening place. The outlet will remain open till well past midnight, Sen said. Pollution is another pain point that the authorities are trying to ease. Respondents to the survey had flagged the high content of particulate matter (PM) in the air as a concern during the IIT survey. “Hidco will plant more trees to reduce pollution,” Sen said.
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