Commuters who block doors by hogging footboards are being rounded up and booked by the Central Railway; Western Railway has booked 1,252 offenders in over three months
MUMBAI: Train bullies’ days are numbered. The Central Railway (CR) on Saturday launched a drive to nab commuters who stand on footboards of suburban trains to prevent others from boarding.
On Day 1, 29 passengers were caught at Dombivali, Diva and Thane stations, said Sachin Bhalode, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner/RPF/CR/Mumbai Division. They were booked under Section 156 (travelling on roof, step or engine) of the Railways Act and released upon payment of a fine of Rs 500 (see: Crime and punishment).
These commuters are now under watch. Any repeat offence will attract a one- to five-year jail term under sections 154 (endangering the safety of commuters by rash or negligent act or omission) and 153 (endangering the safety of commuters by wilful act or omission) of the act.
The initiative comes on the heels of passengers engaging in a brawl at Dombivali station on May 30 after one group prevented another from boarding a CST Kasara train. The scuffle was the last straw. “There have been many similar complaints in the past,” said Bhalode.
The Western Railway (WR) launched a similar drive on February 22 and has caught 1,252 offenders from Borivali, Bhayandar, Va s a i , Vi r a r a n d Nalasopara stations to date, said Anup Shukla, senior divisional security commissioner, RPF, WR, Mumbai central division.
Railway authorities say train bullying — when regular commuters gang up, browbeat and thrash others into forgoing seats or prevent them from even entering the coach — has grown into a menace in recent years.
Ketan Shah, president of passengers’ association Karjat Pravasi Sangh, said commuters who hog footboards tend to be habitual offenders. “Stringent action alone can deter them.”
Shyam Ubale, general secretary of Kalyan-Kasara-Karjat Railway Passengers’ Association, said he and his team have taken up the issue of train bullying with the authorities concerned many times over the last two years. “On May 31, I wrote to the general manager and the divisional railway manager, asking them to start such a drive in problem areas.
Renowned psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said train bullies are often those who want to impress co-passengers with stunts and get a high from intimidating others.
Crime and punishment
There is no specific law to deal with train bullying. Offenders are booked under sections 145 (nuisance) and/ or 156 (travelling on roof, step or engine) of the Railways Act, produced before the magistrate, and fined Rs 500.
► If victim isn’t injured: GRP registers non-cognisable complaint. So, no arrest or investigation.
► If victim is injured: Case filed Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of IPC. 3-year jail term and/or fine.
The anatomy of a bully
Although there is no excuse for such bullying, experts say crowded trains and the long periods taken to travel to work or home, coupled with economic frustrations, are pushing commuters to fly off the handle frequently. The railways’ failure to keep pace — by way of more services — with the exponential passenger growth in the suburbs in recent years is also to blame.
Feb 21: ► TV news reporter Sudhir Shukla is assaulted by a group of five passengers over a seat dispute between Mira Road and Andheri. Shukla suffers a laceration on the head.
Feb 20: ► Kalwa resident Bhanumati Prajapati, 65, and grandson, Ramu, board a local at Virar, try to take a vacant seat, but are stopped by a family. An altercation ensues, leaving both sides with nail scratches.
Nov: ► 18-year-old heading to college in Boisar is slapped, punched and forced to vacate her seat in an intercity train at Virar.
Sept: ► Five women beat up a 54-year-old passenger over a seat row near Kalyan. Victim sustains nail scratches and her clothes are torn.
► A group boards a train at Kalyan. When another man tries to occupy a seat, three men from the group tell him to take a seat on the edge. This leads to a tiff; trio assaults man and forces him out of the train at Vithalwadi.