Poll posters put CST security at risk

Apr 25, 2013, 05:59 IST | Vinay Dalvi

Posters and flags of the union elections for Central Railway cover the CCTV cameras at the high-security station

If you thought that the only problem with illegal banners in the city is how ugly they make it, think again. Crucial security cameras installed at the city’s most vital and busy railway station Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are being blocked by posters, pamphlets and banners festooned within the premises by two railway unions, in the run-up to the railway union elections for the Central Railways (CR). The elections will start today, and end on April 27.

Tearing through security: In some places, the flags have been torn to make a hole for the camera, but most of the view remains curtailed

These cameras are crucial to the security system of the terminus, through which lakhs of busy commuters pass every day. In the past, their viewfinders have captured many crimes committed within the premises. The grabs were later used by cops as clinching evidence in important cases, the most significant being penal proceedings for the 26/11 terror strike in the city, in which 58 lost their lives at CST alone.

The elections is an important event in the CR calendar, with five unions in the running this year the Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh (CRMS), National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU), Rail Kamgar Sena (affiliated to Shiv Sena), Maharashtra Navnirman Railway Kamgar Sena (Affiliated to the MNS) and the Madhya Railway Karmachari Sangh. CRMS and NRMU are oldest players, having taken part in the union elections since 1956.

The posters obscuring the view of the surveillance cameras belong to these two unions. “The two parties have put up banners, posters, hoardings and flags inside the CST premises. These posters have also been blocking the view of the CCTV cameras that are fixed to identify suspicious objects or criminals,” alleged Jitendra Patil, general secretary of the Maharashtra Navnirman Railway Kamgar Sena (Central).

“The CCTV cameras at CST station had captured Qasab on the prowl for victims. These grabs provided damning evidence later, and helped send him to the gallows. The CCTVs have also helped solve several cases of baby theft and abduction, and are extremely important for the police. The railways authorities have installed at least 25 high-end cameras at the station, but many of them have been rendered useless now,” said Patil.

Flyers and posters put up by the contesting unions surround the CCTVs, obscuring their view of events going on below. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Sources revealed that RPF officials have written a letter to the railway authorities, asking them to remove the hoardings as it poses a major threat to security on the busy platforms. However, senior officials have shied away from taking action, perhaps fearing a backlash from the railway unions.

“The unions have been sullying and dirtying the railways – they have been sticking pamphlets on walls, they have also overlooked the security aspect, putting posters and banners that obscure the view of the security cameras. The security cameras have helped us solve so many cases of kidnapping and even murder, but the unions are not bothered about security at all. No senior authorities from railways wants to take any action on the issue,” said a senior GRP officer, requesting anonymity.

V A Malegaonkar, chief public relations officer for CR said, “I cannot comment on matters related to unions.” S Siddique, the divisional secretary of the CRMS, said, “We know the CCTVs are getting blocked by the posters.

Our aim was not to create any problems. We just wanted our railway employees to vote for our union. We wanted to remind them about CRMS. We will look into the matter and remove the posters, if required.” NRMU’s divisional secretary Venu Nair said, “I will personally remove the posters if they block the CCTV cameras. Security is a priority for us.”

Poll facts
The union that obtains 35 per cent of the votes from CR employees gets to send their representatives to the national-level committee that takes decisions related to the railways. Poll results will be declared on May 2. Around 1.15 lakh employees of the CR are expected to vote, 44,000 of them from the Mumbai divisions.

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