7 years after train blasts, railways still faces security loopholes

MUMBAI: Glaring security loopholes exist on railway premises even seven years after the 11/7 serial train blasts.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF), which guards commuters and railway property, is grappling with acute shortage of manpower. Also, surveillance devices have been installed in large numbers on stations, but their video quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Sample this:

On the suburban section, at least 623 RPF posts are yet to be filled on Western Railway (WR) and 740 on Central Railway (CR). Courts have been asking railway security agencies to recruit additional staff, but as the recruitment process is conducted on a national level, it takes long. The current RPF strength on WR suburban section is 1,885 and on CR is 2,408.

“Earlier, there were two companies of the Railway Protection Special Force on the central line. This force is better trained, equipped and organized to react in a crisis. But at present, there is only one company deployed on CR,” said an official.

Between CR and WR, there are around 1,700 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on station areas, but investigating agencies often complain of poor resolution of videos which hampers the probe.

“In the Preeti Rathi acid attack case, we went through the CCTV footage at Delhi, where she had boarded the Garib Rath, and at Bandra Terminus, where she had got off. There was a marked difference in the quality of the video grabs; the CCTV footage at Delhi had a far better resolution than the one at Mumbai,” said a GRP official.

The WR has now initiated a process to procure 616 more CCTV cameras for the Churchgate-Dahanu section, while “For terror preparedness, we conduct mock drills almost every fortnight, jointly with the city police and GRP,” said a senior RPF official from WR. On its part, CR has upgraded its canine squad to 34-30 of them being sniffer dogs and the rest trackers.

“We have commissioned a new kennel at LokmanyaTilak Terminus for our canine squad. At present, there are three kennels at CarnacBunder, Matunga and Kalyan,” said a CR official. (Source: TOI)