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Safety of women takes a backseat amid blame game

With the chinks in the railway’s security armour exposed once again following the attack on a US national in a suburban local train in broad daylight on Sunday afternoon, agencies would be expected to coordinate efforts and step up measures. Instead, agencies entrusted with the job have been arguing over their limitations and lack of manpower.

The tussle between the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Police Force (RPF) over maintaining law and order came to the fore after the incident, with the GRP officials conveniently stating that the responsibility of safeguarding railway passengers lies with the RPF.

The basis for their remark is the amendment to the Indian Railway Act in 2004, which placed the onus on the RPF to protect railway passengers, and man railway compartments reserved for women and the handicapped. But the RPF, which comes under the Railway Ministry, lacks enough manpower, since 1,375 posts in Mumbai are still vacant, said an official from the home department.

“Even if the state government wants to increase the presence of GRP personnel at stations, it requires permissions from the Railway Board, which we are not getting for the past few years,” the official. The state and the railways share the cost of the recruited GRP personnel. The RPF has not increased its presence after the 26/11 terror strikes and are short-staffed.

30 L
Estimated number of women passengers using suburban rail services daily

91
Number of posts of police sub-inspectors lying vacant, out of the stipulated 121

1,846
Number of staff required by GRP to provide security to compartments reserved for women

Crimes against women reported with the GRP
Year    cases
2010   443
2011   471
2012   415
2013   234 (Till July)

Home Guards will lend support
Sources said that Prabhat Kumar who is officiating as the special inspector general of police (railways) briefed Home Minister R R Patil yesterday, following the attack on the US national. To increase safety measures, the state government for now has decided to reintroduce home guards for the security of lady passengers. "I have instructed the commissioner of railway police to depute as many home guards as possible," Home Minister R R Patil said yesterday. The state had to withdraw home guards earlier following some audit objections in a report by the CAG. 

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