Mumbaikars in transit witness crime and catastrophe daily, and a gaunt railway police force is stretched thin to safeguard them, since not more than one cop can be spared to protect every 17,000 rail commuters at a time.
Even with the unbridled rise in assaults on women, assuring security to all seems improbable, given the undermanned Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) armies.
An application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by Anis Khan reveals how commuter traffic dwarfs the strength of police personnel. The number of police -- GRP/RPF -- staff tasked with the security of the metropolitan’s 75 lakh commuters on both Central and Western Railways (WR) is 4,000, give or take a few, the RTI says.
“The railway authorities should deploy more staff for passengers’ safety. On WR, only 803 of a total 1,233 RPF staff man the locals. The rest are deployed for office work or VIP movement. The case is similar on Central Railway. Even in the GRP, number of personnel falls short of the immense traffic locals bear,” said Khan, a railway and an RTI activist.
With the graph of crimes against women in local trains climbing north, the short-staffed railway forces make for clammy assurance.
The number of sexual molestation and rape attempt cases was 234 till July this year. For the same duration, over 700 cases were booked for obscenity, lewd remarks, harassment in other forms and other so-called non-serious crimes. Yet, guards manning women’s coaches are rarely to be seen, even at night.
Given that each local has three coaches reserved for women and factoring in the traffic one coach can accommodate and the number of services, back-of-the-envelope calculations give the number of women travelling on both western and central to be 20 lakh. That’s 20 lakh women travelling in some 8,000 second- and first-class poorly (if at all) guarded compartments on the two lines.
The recent daytime slashing of an American woman in a first-class compartment at Grant Road has exposed the myth that a separate compartment -- or daylight -- is any guarantee against assault, violence or intrusion.
Even at night, when Western and Central Railways together run some 665 services per day, only 562 personnel from GRP and Home Guards are on escort duty.
Numbers to be fortified: Railways
DCP Bansidhar Shirsat, GRP, said, “We are short of staff but we are in the process of recruiting additional personnel. We have already strengthened the number of security men and deployed Home Guards for protecting women’s compartments.”
Atul Rane, chief public relations officer, CR, said, “The RPF, GRP and Home Guards are deployed for security in trains and on stations, in accordance with their existing strength. Efforts are on to increase their numbers further.”
A senior WR official said, “We are working on strengthening the number of staff to provide more security to passengers.”