Mumbai: Old Vashi bridge is soon turning a suicide hotspot

PRIYANKA NAVALKAR

Mumbai: The old Vashi bridge, connecting Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, is increasingly gaining a reputation for becoming the city’s suicide hotspot. Call it lucky or unlucky for the subject, but for the local fishermen, it is just the question of a dive or a boat trip, to save a soul. They have brought ashore as many as 43 people in the last three years, from the brink of death.

According to police, the bridge has become a suicide hotspot because of the sparse vehicular movement on it. Since 2015, police officers have made repeated requests to the Public Works Department to instal barriers such as barbed wire fence or steel nets along the railing, but to no avail. Anil Deshmukh, senior police inspector of Vashi police station said, “Since there is no network of CCTV cameras on the old bridge, we have asked the PWD to at least instal camera surveillance, which we can monitor closely.”

Deshmukh said security guards patrol the area around the bridge, but it is impossible to station a boat near the bridge for an entire day, as the water level keeps changing with the rising and ebbing of tides. Activists have pasted a few inspira tional posters and banners at the old Vashi bridge, in a bid to counsel people against ending their lives, which many have simply ignored over the years.

The fishermen, however, have had success in dissuading some of those bent on ending it all. Speaking to The Free Press Journal, fisherman Dattatray Bhoir, who was very recently a part of the rescue mission which saved a woman who had jumped off the bridge, said, “We often look out for pedestrians and motorists who stop by the bridge. We reach out to them and if they are contemplating suicide, we try to dissuade them from jumping over the bridge. In the last three months, we have stopped nearly 12 persons from killing themselves.”

Last week, a woman jumped off the old Vashi bridge in a bid to commit suicide, but was rescued by the fishermen. The fishermen had just reached ashore when they saw the woman jumping off the bridge and launched a boat into the water again.

A Vashi traffic police official said requesting confidentiality, “It becomes extremely difficult to patrol the old Vashi bridge at night as it is poorly lit. We have asked the PWD to pursue this matter on a priority basis several times, but we are still waiting.”

Police suspect that Naman Dutt, 17, the son of a scientist working at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), jumped to his death from the old Vashi bridge, as his body was found 11 days later on the Mora Sagari beach near Uran.

Dutt, a Class XII student, was last seen leaving his building premises at 10.30pm on September 23 and had boarded a CSMT-bound train at 1am. Last month, talent manager Anirban Blah, 39, worked out a well-thought out script and staged an attempt to commit suicide from the old Vashi bridge, coming all the way from his residence in Khar.