mid-day test drive: Kids play with GRP rifles, ladies use them as bag stand in Mumbai locals

Over six weeks, we tracked a shocking breach of security posing a risk to innocent lives as armed railway police left rifles unattended in women’s compartments

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Which responsible government servant leaves a rifle unattended? If you enter the women’s compartment of a late-night local train, the answer will worryingly be there for you to see — often near a window seat or unapologetically displayed on the overhead luggage rack.

This mid-day reporter experienced four instances of members of the Government Railway Police (GRP), armed, and travelling on footboards of the women’s compartment, leaving their weapons unattended on or near the seats.

The danger this scenario poses can be gauged from a recent incident of a constable shooting himself dead with his rifle in the women's compartment last August. An unattended weapon in the wrong hands could only mean worse.

While GRP officials are expected to treat all weapons as an extension of their arms, mid-day’s investigation revealed that the officials were apathetic about violating rules.

When this reporter questioned one of the constables, he said, "Don't worry. The weapon has been emptied of cartridges." Another got irritated, and retorted with a threat.

Senior railway officials, on condition of anonymity, however, said the lackadaisical attitude was unacceptable and policemen found guilty of dereliction of duty could invite a departmental inquiry.

Here are four instances of what the mid-day reporter experienced.

Case 1

Date: 21.12.2016
Time: 11.58 (Virar local)
Boarded from: Bandra
Name of the police official: Unknown

Case 2:
Date: 19.01.2017
Time: 11.58 (Virar local)
Boarded from: Bandra
Name of the police official: RY Gaikwad

When I boarded the train at Bandra station, the GRP official got up from his window seat, placed his rifle below the window and offered the seat to a woman travelling with a child. He stood at the footboard. The curious child touc-hed the rifle while the mother paid little heed. He rested his feet on the rifle, making himself comfortable.

 

When I boarded the train at Bandra station, rifle 689 was already lying near the window seat. A woman seated on the opposite seat placed her handbag over the rifle. After the train crossed Andheri, more commuters boarded the train and the compartment was now choc-a-block. The policeman was far away from his weapon, the crowd hiding it from his view.

Case 3:
Date: 20.01.2017
Time: 11.58 (Virar local)
Boarded from: Bandra
Name of the police official: Santosh Narayan Sodim

The next day on January 20, a woman seated near the rifle placed near the window asked why I was shooting a video of the weapon. When I explained to her, she responded, “Yeh aaj pehli baar thode hi ho raha hai? Police waalon ko fikar kahaan? Unko sirf kaam khatam karke ghar bhaagna hota hai [This is not the first time this is happening. The police don’t care. They are in a rush to wrap up work and head home].”

When I got down at Vasai, the rifle was still lying unattended.

Case 4:
No Video

Date: 26.01.2017
Time: 01.07 (Virar local)
Boarded from: Dahisar
Name of the police official: Khodage (first name not known)

There were few commuters in the compartment and the rifle, as usual, was placed below the window. At Naigaon, I asked the GRP personnel why he had left his weapon unattended. He said, “Is there a rule that says I have to hold it all the time? It’s under my watchful eyes. Do you have a problem with that?” As I got off, he shot back brazenly, "My name is Khodage in case you wish to know."

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