Mumbai: The Maharastra state Home Department has hauled Western Railway over the coals like never before, just stopping short of issuing a red alert. Why? Because the issue at stake is the safety and security of passengers and visitors at railway stations across the state in the wake of possible terror attacks. In short, millions of lives are in danger.
Apart from the installation of high-definition CCTV cameras, the home department has raised a host of issues related to passenger safety as well as better functioning of the Government Railway Police (GRP).
is in possession of some letters shot off by the top brass of the CID, crime and railways as well as State Home Secretary SK Nanda to Western Railway officials between August and October.
The contents of these communications suggest that the home department is not at all happy with the lukewarm response they got from WR to improve the situation, which directly affects the functioning of GRP and making it difficult to handle crimes on rail stations as well as on trains.
According to the first letter sent by Ashish Bhatia, who was Additional Director-General of Police, CID, Crime and Railways, in August 2013, GRP officials were facing problems while doing duty. A line in that letter read: “Time and again, the problems faced by GRP are discussed at various meetings and letters. But, the situation has remained the same.” This missive was sent to RC Agrawal, the General Manager of Western Railway, on August 6, 2013.
In his three-page letter, Bhatia raised several points that called for immediate attention of the railway authorities. The most important point was, of course, the location of GRP stations. According to him, GRP stations should be located on platforms so that police personnel can reach the crime scene easily. Bhatia, however, claimed that many GRP stations were situated outside the stations. “Railway being a soft target of any terrorist outfit, police stations have to be situated on the platforms,” he insisted.
Two other important suggestions included installation of 51 HD CCTV cameras and 18 scanner machines at the Ahmedabad railway station to keep watch on every movement. He also asked the railway officials to pay immediate attention to building a boundary wall on uninhabited stretches leading to stations to block the unauthorised entry and exit of criminals.
Taking the matter ahead, Nanda wrote a letter to Vinay Mittal, chairman of the Railway Board, on October 30, last year. He, too, issued a reminder about installing CCTV cameras at stations. Nanda pointed out about the GRP station at Vadodara station. According to him, platform 1 was the ideal place for a GRP station. “Instead, a food plaza is coming up there while the police station takes a back seat,” read the letter.
After these communications, a joint meeting was held on November 26, 2013, between top WR officials and state home department to implement the action plan. The agenda included a comprehensive plan to improve security at railway stations as well as providing basic amenities to GRP, such as barracks for night stay after patrolling and renovation of old police stations.
According to Jitendra Kumar Jayant, senior public relations officer of Western Railway in Ahmedabad, many of the suggestions had already been accepted while some would take time. “We have already finalised the installation of 51 HD CCTV cameras in and around Kalupur station. However, the installation of body scanners will take time. We are also planning to build a permanent concrete wall around the station,” he said.