Ooty – A heritage site gone to the dogs

UDHAGAMANDALAM: The Ooty railway station, part of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), which is a heritage site, has shockingly become a den for dubious activities at night. The four railway quarters located within the campus and which are in dilapidated condition provide a safe have for miscreants to indulge in questionable activities.

The local railway officials say they are helpless as their superiors do not heed to their complaints. Ironically, a police station situated adjacent to the station does not mean much to the miscreants. The railway station has not been properly fenced. The entry and exit points lack proper gates. Also, residents of St Mary’s Hill including students of three schools, use the station as a short cut route to reach their locality. Railway officials say it is difficult to prevent trespassing as it is a very huge property (60 acres) and must be fenced. They have written to higher officials to do the needful but in vain.

The Ooty railway station sees only four arrivals and four departures of the NMR meter gauge trains daily. But by six in the evening regular activities in the station come to a halt. “After six, taxi drivers and other miscreants occupy the place and go on a drinking binge. They often misbehave with women who use the junction as a short cut. Besides, the railway quarters which are unoccupied are used as a stable for ponies.

“It is sad to see a heritage site suffer such deterioration. The concerned officials seem to be indifferent to the situation,” lamented a resident.

When contacted, the Ooty station master refused to comment. Ironically, a railway protection force is located right adjacent to one of the staff quarters. But it remains a silent spectator to the decay. A police station is also situated adjacent to the railway station.

G S Anitha, Ooty town DSP, told, “The D2 police station takes care of the outer area of the railway station apart from its prescribed areas in town. It is the responsibility of railway police personnel to oversee areas within the station . But we will look into the matter and take necessary action”.

Tool shack spoils the view

The Ooty railway station, which had bagged the award for the best station in 2012, is expected to win the title this year too. However, a shed made of zinc sheets located in front of the railway tracks is an eye sore for visitors. According to railway officials, the shed was erected by railway contractors to house their tools and machinery. “The shed could have been constructed anywhere but instead it is right in front of you,” says Rama Padmanabhan, a visitor from Chennai. According to UNESCO heritage site rules, once a place is declared a heritage site, no structure, either of concrete or of metals should come up within the declared area.