The Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) are in a tussle over who is responsible for checking the menace of squatters in trains. Squatters are a common menace in local trains as they occupy gangways near the door, making it difficult for commuters to alight from or board the trains.
Not only squatters, general commuters also block the door by occupying the footboard for want of space. Blocking the doors of a local train is a punishable offence under section 156 (that includes rooftop travellers, footboard travellers and squatters) of the Indian Railways Act.
This means the GRP and the RPF are responsible for bringing the miscreants to task. However, there is an inherent difference of opinion between the two agencies over the issue. “We had carried out a drive to tackle this issue on the Western Railway (WR) a few months ago. The Central Railway (CR) also took part after receiving complaints. However, this is the lawful duty of the RPF, according to the 2003 amendment to the Indian Railways Act (IRA),” said GRP Commissioner Prabhat Kumar.
Although the RPF agrees that it is an important duty, they claim that it needs to be done jointly by both the agencies. “It is a joint responsibility. For a law and order issue, we need the help of the GRP force. We have been conducting drives regularly to tackle squatters,” said Alok Bohra, senior divisional security commissioner, CR.
As of April 2013, the RPF has apprehended 1,748 persons, of whom eight have been imprisoned. They have collected fines amounting to Rs 3,05,550. “Since it is a social problem, we carry out awareness campaigns. An increased civic sense among people is more essential and effective than official action,” added Bohra.
Speaking about the difficulty in combating the issue, R B Rupanwar, senior divisional security commissioner, WR, said, “The main reason is shortage of manpower. With 35 per cent vacancies and an ever-increasing rate of passenger inflow, it is not easy for us to perform our duties.”
The RPF authorities claim their men patrol trains regularly but even then it is difficult to concentrate on all the compartments. Apart from instituting additional manpower, officials in general feel a complete overhaul of the railway police by having a unified force will increase accountability. Also, they feel more legal powers and technological upgradation at railway stations will help in effective discharge of duties.
A few days ago a girl who wanted to get down at Dadar stumbled and fell on the platform as there were women sitting at the entrance of the train. This is a daily nuisance and it can only be stopped if there is frequent patrolling by policemen. When these people are caught regularly, they will think twice before blocking the entrance - Pooja Sharma, a Malad resident
I was coming back from CST to in Thane, where I live, but because of squatters in the train, I could not get off and had to travel till Kalwa. They have irrational ways of justifying that their habit does not cause any bother. ‘We are sitting on the side, how does it affect you?’ they argue, forever ready to pick up a fight. Unless this habit is changed, any enlargement of compartments in trains is futile - Samruddhi Bade, a student who travels from Thane to CST
These people mostly sit in groups and chit-chat and refuse to get up even if we ask them to. There is no adequate space even to stand. I feel that they should realise the trouble they are causing and voluntarily stop doing this. It is unreasonable to think that police should supervise every train and catch miscreants - Felix Nadar, an accountant who travels from Bhandup to CST
Normally, many people get down at Thane, and during the afternoon, women sit with huge baskets of vegetables blocking the space. Although, ideally, they should travel in the goods compartment, it is not big enough to accommodate everyone including fisherfolk. So the space in the goods compartment should be increased - Priyanka Khare, who travels from Ambernath