Mumbai: Check railway commuters' bags only in presence of senior cop, says GRP top cop

Apr 15, 2015, 15:36 IST | Saurabh Vaktania

Citing complaints of railway commuters being harassed and valuables being taken away from their luggage, GRP commissioner has asked officials to stop checking bags unless senior officers are present

Having warned the Anti-Terrorism Squad and top police officials of a possible 26/11-like attack on Mumbai in the next two-three months, GRP Commissioner Dr Ravinder Kumar Singal sent a letter to his own men soon after, asking them to stop checking the bags of railway commuters to prevent their harassment.

A policeman at CST. Following the attack warning, security has been beefed up at stations. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
A policeman at CST. Following the attack warning, security has been beefed up at stations. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

mid-day had reported yesterday about the letter Commissioner Singal had sent to the police officials warning of a possible LeT attack and on April 9 about the Railway Protection Force (RPF) installing more than 1,000 CCTV cameras near baggage scanners at stations, where GRP officials allegedly harass commuters and ask them for bribes.

mid-day’s reports yesterday

Baggage checks usually take place at terminuses where long-distance trains arrive and depart from. In the letter sent to GRP officials (copy with mid-day) in the first week of April, Dr Singal said the decision to stop baggage checks was taken because he had received several complaints of constables harassing commuters on the pretext of checking their bags and also of some of them taking money and valuables from the luggage.

mid-day’s reports yesterday and on April 9
mid-day’s reports yesterday and on April 9

The order states that bags can now be checked only in front of an officer of the inspector level or higher, or at railway police stations in front of the station house officer. While officials have lauded the move because it will prevent commuters from being harassed, they have questioned its timing, given the threat that the city is reportedly facing.

After the 26/11 attacks, GRP officials were deployed at every railway station, at the exit points or at rail over bridges (ROBs). They would conduct random checks of commuters’ luggage and note down their name, address and mobile phone numbers.

They would especially stop people carrying large bags and allegedly take money and valuables from them. The commissioner’s order states, “For serious security reasons, officials were asked to keep a tab on, and check bags of, railway commuters, but the police officials are neglecting their duties.

In the name of checking, they keep commuters waiting for a long time. Some officials even fool commuters and take away money or important valuables from the bag. The department has received complaints about the same. Therefore, no bag checking will be done of railway commuters, henceforth.”

“If the officials at railway stations suspect something amiss with the baggage of a particular commuter, the checking can be done by calling an inspector-level officer, or the commuter can be taken to a railway police station and the checking can be done in front of station house officer. Officials can also take the help of RPF inspectors for checking,” it adds.

Bold decision
A senior railway officer said, “Now, no one will conduct bag checks even if they suspect something because it has become a very lengthy process. No one will invest that much time. The commissioner has taken a very good decision but, possibly, at the cost of security. It is a bold decision by him to stop corruption and harassment by officials.”

RPF deploys 100 AK 47-toting cops
In the wake of the warning of a possible attack on Mumbai’s railway stations and hotels by 8-10 Lashkar-e-Taiba suicide bombers, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has deployed over 100 highly-trained AK 47-toting officials at railway stations from Churchgate to Surat on the Western Railway.

Senior Divisional Security Commissioner of RPF (Western Railway) Anand Jha said, “Since the first week of April, a company of Railway Protection Special Force has been called in for patrolling railway stations. The team is highly trained and all officials will have AK-47s with them. They won’t be patrolling at fixed spots and will go to different railway stations. The locations will also be not disclosed as it will alert enemies. We have increased patrolling and officials are spread out.”

Commissioner speak
Speaking to mid-day, GRP Commissioner Dr Ravinder Kumar Singal said, “I had been receiving several complaints against officials for taking money and even mobile phones from commuters. Keeping the alert in mind, I have not completely stopped bag checks, but have asked the officials, in case of suspicion, to call a uniformed officer of the inspector level or higher or take commuters to the railway police station and check the bags there.”

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