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New Delhi turns to breathalyzers to keep drunks off metro

New Delhi's new metro is a symbol both of India's progress and of its problems. 

Started in 2002 and completed in 2010, the 189-kilometre metro is among the sprawling country's most impressive post-independence infrastructure projects, built on budget of less than $7 billion.

But after its completion, female passengers complained so often of being groped by men that the metro introduced ‘ladies only’ subway cars.

There are other rules to try to maintain order on board -- spitting is banned, as is sitting on the floor and public urination. No food and drinks are allowed on the metro, either.

Now, officials are adopting a new tactic in their battle to make rides more pleasant for commuters: they will be using breathalyzers to weed out drunk passengers.

Central Industrial Security Force deputy inspector Udyan Banerjee tells The Hindustan Times newspaper that the breathalyzers have already been tested in Rajiv Chowk, a metro station near Old Delhi, and will soon be rolled out at all 134 stations.

The hand-held breathalyzers will help police build a database of potential troublemakers, he said.

The move to address public drunkenness on the metro is just the latest in a string of recent efforts by Indian officials to highlight how the country's public transportation is safe, both for locals and tourists alike.

India’s latest "Incredible India" ad campaign to lure tourists shows Patricia Malone, co-star of the film The Mentalist, travelling across India alone, conveying a message that the country is a safe one for female tourists to explore on their own.

It's meant to showcase India as a safe destination after a number of recent high-profile assaults on tourists.

On March 15, a Swiss tourist was gang raped while on a cycling holiday with her husband in the central Madhya Pradesh state. Her husband was tied to a tree.

In another incident, a British woman jumped off the balcony of her second floor hotel room to escape a man she said tried to get into her room. That happened in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, the nation’s biggest tourist draw.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead


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I'd rather have drunks on the subways, than on the roads.

Umm.... won't this sort of encourage drinking and driving?

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