Pune: The Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops are supposed to protect passengers and maintain law and order on stations and trains. However, they seem to have switched jobs with thieves and miscreants on Central Railway, with an alarming increase in complaints of cops extorting money and assaulting passengers “who refuse to grease their palms”.
What’s more alarming is that no action is being taken against such cops by the railway administration. If fact, activists allege that victims who approach the police or senior railway officials to complain are threatened with dire consequences and forced to “settle the matter”.
This “anarchy” at the Pune Railway station was highlighted by the incident on October 23 when a BPO employee was allegedly beaten up by two home guards on RPF duty and a RPF constable when he refused to give them bribe. Devashish Charan Patnaik (22) was beaten so badly that he had to be admitted to a hospital.
This is not an aberration. The complaint books at the station are full. However, very few of these translate into formal FIRs with the police, as per activists, being “extremely reluctant” to lodge offences against RPF and GRP men.
For instance, on October 7, Shivaji Vitthal Shinde, a resident of Solapur was allegedly abused and beaten up by GRP men on night duty when he refused to pay them Rs 300 as demanded by them. He submitted a written complaint to the station manager, who disposed it of with the following note: “We summoned the GRP officials seeking an explanation but they refused to come. The GRP officials also refused to give the names of the constables who were on duty when the alleged incident took place.”
According to activist Harsha Shah, these incidents are more frequent but few gather courage to register complaints in the station master’s book. “GRP and RPF cops target persons who look illiterate and won’t create any hue and cry. They check the mobile phones of the passengers waiting on the platforms, though they don’t have any authority to do so, and if they find any obscene content in the phone, they threaten the possessor with prolonged jail sentence or a penalty of lakhs of rupees. The people then pay off the cops. If somebody refuses to pay up, they beat him up,” said Shah, adding, that if anyone approaches the police station, the cops refuse to file a complaint against their colleagues.
Despite several complaints registered with the station manager and criticism by the activists, the GRP and RPF bosses deny any wrongdoing on part of their juniors.
Abhay Parmar, Police Inspector (Pune Station), GRP, said, “I haven’t come across any such complaint in the past three months since I have taken charge. I have instructed my staff that passengers security is our topmost priority and they should not face any inconvenience because of us.”
Ashok Kumar Ray, Divisional Security Commissioner (RPF), said, “There are some genuine complaints about harassment of passengers at the hand of RPF cops. However, there is also a considerable number of false complaints. There are instances when a passenger breaks rules and to avoid punishment pays off bribe to the cop on duty. However, he then goes ahead and files a complaint with the station manager that he was robbed by the cop. If there’s a genuine complaint, we certainly take action against the erring cop.”
On the inquiry in the October 23 incident, which he is conducting on directives of Divisional Railway Manager Suneet Sharma, Ray said: “I was busy with the Railway Recruitment Cell examination and the visit of the railway minister. I will start the investigation and file the report as soon as possible.”