It is ironic that the very people who are supposed to protect women travellers, are instead posing a risk to them, even if inadvertently. Over six weeks, this newspaper tracked at least four instances of members of the Government Railway Police (GRP) leaving their weapons unattended on or near the seats in the women’s compartment even as they stand guard near the footboards.
The danger this poses is obvious. Last August, a constable shot himself dead with his rifle in the women’s compartment last August. An unattended weapon in the wrong hands may mean worse. A reporter from this paper spotted rifles that were kept below the window, many times there were children near the weapon. In one case, a child handled the gun and rested his feet on the gun. In another case, the rifle was kept in a spot that was not even visible to the cop through the crowd, even as women piled their handbags on the gun.
It is highly likely that this is an everyday occurrence. Many commuters claimed it is a daily sight, and they actually seemed surprised that one would find this remarkable or worthy of attention - so commonplace had this become. The policemen, too, seemed a trifle indifferent - some explained that there were no cartridges in the rifle, while one cop said his gun was in his line of vision anyway, so why worry about it?
Security personnel must have the rifle with them all the time. It is unacceptable that they leave it where it can be touched or triggered accidentally by anyone, especially children. This is a tragedy waiting to happen, and policemen should realise that.
There is enough for women to worry about when travelling by the local train late at night, so there is little point in compounding the risks. It is imperative that we check this – today, as tomorrow might be too late.