Mumbai locals and suburban train stations are a preying ground for molesters, as any regular woman commuter will tell you.
According to the figures obtained from the Government Railway Police (GRP), the number of molestation cases in suburban trains has more than doubled this year from last year. Moreover, experts say a majority of cases go unreported as victims do not turn up for making complaints for a number reasons.
The GRP statistics say the number of cases filed for molestation in 2010 was 15. This dipped to eight in 2011, and had surged to 19 till November 2012. The registered cases of rape, for the same years in the same order, were two, three and one.
But an offhand survey of commuters is enough to dismiss the statistics as a far cry from the actual situation of daily abuse that women and young girls suffer. Besides, there are thousands of cases that go unregistered.
MiD DAY’s conversations with a few of the 20 lakh woman commuters of Mumbai locals established that they go through routine harassment from the other gender — verbal, physical and mental. And they do not have the time or the inclination to go and lodge complaints for every single incident.
Kalpana Dalvi, who commutes between Dahisar, CST and Churchgate says she has taught herself to ignore lewd comments and abusive sexual contact. “Initially, I used to react to such incidents but now I feel it’s just a waste of time. I have made complaints but they were never taken seriously. Policemen used to look at me like I was the criminal. They’d ask me every detail, and tell me they’d look into the matter and that was that,” said Dalvi, a marketing executive in a pharmaceutical company.
Hundreds like Dalvi face daily harassment in what is touted as the city’s lifeline: the locals.
Sixteen-year-old Priyanshi Mishra was at Dadar station on December 6 and waiting for her mother on the bridge. “The bridge was packed with people. A boy came up behind me and groped me. I was so stunned and embarrassed I could not utter a word. I just hit him with my bag and he disappeared in the rush,” said Mishra, who didn’t go to the police to register a complaint. “It would have been a waste of time. Also, my mother didn’t take me to the police station,” she said , adding that she didn’t step out of the house for a week after the incident because she fell ill.
Police good enough?
There are 344 GRP staff deployed on escorting duties for female passengers in the night, and 50 more personnel on night rounds from each division.
Rajiv Singhal, member of Zonal Ralway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), said, “The Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the GRP are not in shape to provide a safe commute for female passengers due to many reasons - lack of staff, poor co-ordination and so on. If things are not improved in coming years, cases may be registered or not, but they will occur even more frequently than in the present.”
Samir Zaveri, an activist for rail commuters, said, “Many policemen still in service are themselves facing molestation and rape charges. Passengers don’t feel safe going to the police in such a scenario.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police, GRP, GS Bhandare, said, “The cases of molestation have increased because of the rise in the number of passengers. Now females are more informed and come forward to register the complaints.”
In case the cops at the railway station are not taking down your complaint, you can call this helpline or the DCP’s number displayed at each police station.
Number of cases filed for molestation, according to GRP statistics: