Eight years after 26/11, Mumbai railway stations remain vulnerable
Eight years on, a day before 26/11's eighth anniversary, mid-day conducted a test drive of the security system in place for Mumbai's lifeline. Are we prepared to thwart such an attack?
mid-day’s Rupsa Chakraborty shows the metal equipment in her backpack which went undetected
In 2008, when terrorists entered our city, more than 100 Mumbaikars succumbed to their bullets, in one of the deadliest terror attacks in the world. Eight years on, a day before 26/11’s eighth anniversary, can we say that we are prepared to thwart such an attack? mid-day conducted a test drive of the security system in place for the city’s lifeline — its railway stations. We visited five main termini — CST, Dadar, Bandra, Kurla and Mumbai Central — to check if security measures there are strong enough to catch someone entering a crowded platform with guns and other weapons. All failed spectacularly.
We kept iron-made car repairing equipment in a backpack and passed through metal detectors at each station carrying it. Needless to say, we entered without any hitch. We also got inside the premises through other means to avoid detection.
In their defence
Senior divisional security commissioner (DSC) of Central Railway Sachin Bhalode said, “We have kept metal detectors and bag scanners at each terminus. Also, we randomly frisk passengers.”
When mid-day informed him that none of the metal detectors, as well as the bag scanner, at CST are functional, he accepted it and said, "We are aware of it. A belt of the scanner has blasted, we are repairing it. As far as the detectors are concerned, due to shortage of staff, we have to keep one or two deactivated at times.”
“It is impossible to check all the passengers in CST. As per our records, 6,000 pass through the gates every minute. The metal detectors need 30 seconds to recover. After 26/11, we tried experimenting with the process but were unsuccessful. There are loopholes, but it is not possible to scan everyone; random checking is the only way,” he added.
Western Railway’s senior DSC AK Shukla, on the other hand, said the stations on WR are monitored by CCTV cameras, while all entrances have metal detectors along with hand metal detectors. When mid-day told him about the sorry state of Bandra Terminus, he said he has joined recently and would look into the security measures before making any comment.
GRP commissioner Niket Kaushik, despite repeated attempts, didn’t respond to calls or messages.
Lokmanya Tilak Terminus
The platform was crowded with passengers mostly from Bihar and UP. There are three entry points here with metal detectors at each one — two were said to be functional and one not operational. We first passed through the non-operational one. Though there was a working bag scanner there, the police didn’t even bat an eyelid, nor did they ask us to open our bag. After this, we proceeded to enter through the points having functional metal detectors. And much to our surprise, though the lights on these machines were on, they didn’t catch the metal objects in our bag. So, in short, none of the three were working.
Another important terminus that gets thousands of passengers everyday, this one has five metal detectors, out of which one is nonfunctional. Following the pattern, we first entered through the one that wasn’t working and then through the functional ones. Here, the shock was that even after a functional one sounded the alarm for the metal in our bag, one of the policemen sitting there bothered or asked to see the bag.
There’s only one metal detector here, it’s functional, but no one uses it, and no authority bothers to enforce its use either. There is also a bag scanner here, that one is nonfunctional, and hence, it’s again the same situation: saunter in with whatever you feel like, there’s no one to stop you or check your belongings.
This tony suburb with its celebrity residences is abysmally poor when it comes to security and infrastructure at its terminus. The station doesn’t have a single metal detector or bag scanner. And no person to do the checking either.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Despite being one of the main targets during 26/11, the security measures here are the worst. All the metal detectors are nonfunctional, as is the bag scanner. We entered and exited with our metal-laden backpack, no questions asked. This major terminus continues to remain a sitting duck for any terrorist, another such attack.
The CST was attacked by three gunmen. One of them, Ajmal Kasab, was caught alive by the police. The attacks started around 9.30 pm. The terrorists entered the passenger hall and opened indiscriminate fire on people. Fifty-eight people died and 104 were injured.
Number of people that pass through CST’s gates every minute