Officials who shoulder the daunting task of keeping the city’s Central and Western Railway networks secure and crime-free are spread thin these days, thanks to the elections.

While the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) are already suffering from shortage of staff, more than half of their officials have been sent for election duty to different locations in the country.

The RPF is in charge of protecting railway property, passengers and railway property used by passengers. The GRP is also responsible for passenger safety, and has the special task of guarding women’s coaches at night. File pic
The RPF is in charge of protecting railway property, passengers and railway property used by passengers. The GRP is also responsible for passenger safety, and has the special task of guarding women’s coaches at night. File pic

Many more will be enlisted for election duty in days to come. With a large number of officials manning their forces absent, the remaining are struggling to dispense their duty to manage the security systems in place on the platforms and tracks.

“We are already short-staffed, and with elections round the corner, half of our staffers have already been sent. It is becoming difficult for us to manage with such few people,” said a senior RPF official on duty for the Western Railway (WR).

WR has a total of 1,885 RPF posts, of which only 1,000 are occupied, with an even smaller fraction of 525 personnel actually manning the railway stations, platforms and properties. Out of these 525 staff members, 160 have already been sent off on election duty to different parts of India.

The Central Railway (CR) has a sanctioned strength of 2,408 personnel, of which 800 staff members are deployed for passenger security. Of these, 200 staffers and officials have been dispatched on election duty, leaving 600 men and women to manage security and safety on the tracks and stations.

The numbers seem grossly inadequate, especially when you consider that every day, Mumbai’s suburban section carries passengers over 70 lakh to far-flung destinations. Approximately 38 lakh commuters use the CR services, while 34 lakh depend on the WR train services.

Even the GRP is struggling. There are about 3,400 GRP officials in the city, spread across the CR and WR lines. Of these, nearly 1,200 personnel are already on election duty, with many more scheduled to report for their duties by May 2.

“This is an alarmingly unsatisfactory number of security personnel on the railway premises, for passenger security. We are managing it only because of God’s grace. Apart from the suburban passengers, we also have to handle long- distance passengers, the number of which rise in the summer months,” said an official, requesting anonymity.

The RPF is in charge of protecting railway property, passengers and railway property used by passengers. The GRP is also responsible for passenger safety, and has the special task of guarding women’s coaches at night.