If it is after 8 pm and you are a female commuter worried about your safety in a local train, then the Government Railway Police (GRP) say you had better make a run for it to get into the first compartment towards the Churchgate or CST side.
The reason given is that the manpower crunch in the GRP prevents the stationing of a constable in all three compartments meant for women in a local.
“We are short-staffed and it is not possible for us to provide personnel in each of the compartments meant for females,” Commissioner of Police, GRP, Prabhat Kumar said. “If a female passenger is not comfortable travelling alone or with very few people around her in a coach, then she can always board the first ladies (compartment) towards Churchgate or CST, where our staff member is posted.”
Rajiv Singhal, member of Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), said the statement by the GRP was disturbing.
“Instead of saying they don’t have sufficient staff to provide security to the female commuters, they can coordinate with the RPF (Railway Protection Force) and deploy staff in all three coaches for females,” Singhal said.
Pratibha Singh, a female commuter who works at Lower Parel, said it was not uncommon for working women to travel late these days and the authorities should be doing more to ensure their safety.
“I often commute between Lower Parel and Nallasopara, but hardly have I seen the police staff in trains,” Singh said. “It is sad that with so many female commuters travelling during the night hours there still are no police.”
In the suburban section of the city, over 70 lakh passengers commute daily in trains, and over 20 lakh of them are female.
Though the number of female commuters after 8 pm is not very high, the complaints about offences against them are worrisomely high. Last year, the GRP registered 517 cases of offences against women passengers, including molestation and assault. This year the number has already crossed 500.
According to the railway police, they get 20-30 complaints from female commuters every day. The GRP helpline number, 9833331111, is always flooded with complaints like men and boys over 12 years of age commuting in ladies coaches and sexual harassment.
“The helpline number we have given is easy (to remember) and has proved to be of real help to the callers,” a senior railway police official said. “We immediately provide help to the caller, whether male or female.”
2 cops per train
Till last year, there used to be only one GRP personnel on a local train. Now two GRP escorts are supposed to be assigned for every train. One of them is deployed towards the CST or Churchgate end of a train and the other in the middle part of the local. Still, female passengers allege they hardly see these personnel around, especially during the night.
The number of daily railway passengers
How can the railway police give us such ridiculous security arrangements? This is not done. We will not accept such things. Why should we females be asked to take one compartment only when there are two others available only for
— Sunita Kotian, Kandivli resident
It is sad that the railway police are denying us security in all the coaches. When we pay so much for the ticket and passes, how can the railways do such things with us? We will sit wherever we want and they can’t bind us by their rules
— Mrinalini Kapoor, regular commuter
Everyday I travel after 11 pm to Badlapur from CST, but it’s hard to remember when I have seen these (police) men in the coaches protecting the female commuters. Either they are asleep or are
simply not there in the coaches
— Shalini Ghose, Central line commuter