Can 4 new machines secure lakhs of commuters daily?

Published: 22 November, 2011 08:52 IST | Shashank Rao and Vinod Kumar Menon |

As RPF opens tenders for 4 high-end doorframe detectors for CST, LTT as part of the integrated security plan, experts question if the machines can secure the premises used by millions daily, say we need enhanced intelligence

As RPF opens tenders for 4 high-end doorframe detectors for CST, LTT as part of the integrated security plan, experts question if the machines can secure the premises used by millions daily, say we need enhanced intelligence 

Three years on, all the cries and clamour for taut security and enhanced vigilance at the susceptible CST station following the terror that besieged Mumbai on November 26, 2008 have culminated in this: four more metal detectors that officials hail as high-end and upgraded versions of their counterparts that stood guard at CST the fateful day 52 people were killed.

Hi-tech? Railway officials claim that the present DFMDs, purchased for
Rs 70,000 each,  have degenerated into nothing less than noise polluters
that beep every time someone passes.  File pic

Close to the third anniversary of the strike, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) is well on its way to install four of these -- 2 at CST and 2 at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) -- as part of the Integrated Security System recommended by the Ram Pradhan Committee in the aftermath of 26/11.

"We opened tenders for the four Multi-Zone Door Frame Metal Detector machines on November 18 and shall try to install them as soon as possible," said PC Sinha, Senior Divisional Security Commission (Mumbai), Central Railway. Officials said that these machines would find their way to other important stations like Thane, Dadar and Kalyan over a period of time.

Too little, too pricey
But other than the fact that the RPF is still three months away from installing these, the question begs to be asked: are two more machines capable of ensuring safety for the 30 lakh commuters that use CST daily, not to mention those at LTT, arguably two of the busiest stations in the city.

Railway cops doubt it. "We understand that lakhs of people visit the two stations every day. So we will first check the feasibility of these machines in tackling this problem before introducing them at other stations," said a senior RPF official on condition of anonymity.
Indeed, the machines, being procured at a cost of around Rs 2 lakh each, are hi-tech. Railway officials claim that they are better than the extant doorframe metal detectors, purchased for Rs 70,000 each, that have degenerated into nothing less than noise polluters that beep every time someone passes.

However, sceptics feel the machines are superfluous if they are not backed by human intelligence. "No right-thinking terrorist would walk through the detectors. We need human resources to keep track of suspicious elements," another official added.

Madhu Kotian, member, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, "These doorframe metal detectors are a sheer waste of money. Instead, the authorities should fill up the posts lying empty in both the RPF and GRP. Also, can the officials guarantee that the new machines are useful?"

IPS-officer-turned-activist, Advocate Y P Singh said, "It is humanly impossible to chase each and every person at railway station and physically screen them. These advance DFMD's are welcome, but they are not a solution to prevent terror strikes. In the last three years, very little has been done in upgrading the intelligence gathering system".

However, CR officials believe the new machines would improve the security arrangement. "The frequency of sound made by the machine would be different for different metals. So if someone were carrying keys or coins or some other harmless metal object, the detector would beep mildly -- it can even be turned mute for such items. But if the object is heavy in nature -- for instance a pistol -- then the detector would beep more stridently," explained Chief Security Commissioner, A Sharma.

Mega security plan
Only last year, the CR unveiled the Rs 37-crore mega integrated security plan to protect its passengers, stations and trains. It came after the Ram Pradhan Committee, formed by the state post 26/11, had found instances of how red-tape was holding up purchase of arms and ammunition, and had recommended several improvements on the security front. Now, the wheels are in motion, officials claim.

Government Railway Police (GRP) Commissioner Prabhat Kumar said, "The Attack Action Section is very much operative now and they are being given special training. They have been deployed at strategic locations."
Officials claim that the CCTVs installed at the stations are so powerful that one can clearly look at minute details sitting in the control room. Under the plan, the CR is procuring 784 high-end CCTV cameras to cover six major stations of Mumbai division.

Devices like bulletproof jackets, helmets, binoculars, emergency lights, polycarbonate lathis, coupled with intelligent security system sensors placed advantageously will offer reinforced security, information and alerts.
Furthermore, plans are afoot to construct two machans (bunkers) for railway police commandoes at CST, one at the concourse and the other near platform 14. These structures, while acting as vantage points, can hold weaponry for the RPF.

Official says
Director General of Police (Home Guard and Civil Defence) Raj Khilnani, who was once the DIG (GRP), said, "The fencing of entry exit points of railway stations has started but covering the entire stretch would take time for completion. I have formed a striking force (Attack Action Section) consisting of 60 to 80 policemen from the GRP, who are physically fit and mentally alert. Special firing practice was imparted to them and they have been deployed in small groups at both ends of sensitive railway stations to avoid any untoward incident like 26/11. We need to constantly upgrade the system and improve intelligence networking. Any lethargic attitude can prove fatal."

Figure it out

Rs 2 lakh
Cost of Multi Zone Door Frame Metal Detectors

3 months
Approx time needed to install them

Rs 70,000
Cost of the present metal detectors

Rs 37 crore
Total cost of integrated security plan

Number of CCTVs being procured

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