China, the third biggest railway network in the world, has a Ministry of Railway Police for the entire railway network to handle preventive crimes in Railway areas!
Mumbai: The case of Esther Anuhya is a classic example of the neglect of police-operating-procedures. Anuhya, a young software engineer from Hyderabad, was induced by a “history-sheeter” to accompany him from Mumbai’s Kurla railway station in the early hours of 5 January, then raped and killed. The smart detection subsequently by the Mumbai Crime Branch in apprehending a habitual offender from Nashik, despite some wrong turns in the investigation, does not wash off the initial neglect by Kurla Railway Police. This is now being heard by the Bombay High Court. A history-sheeter is supposed to be kept under surveillance all the time. How was he able to operate from an important railway station without being checked? Such incidents of neglect in preventive crime vigilance on railway stations are reported from all over the country. No doubt, the railway administration, which has slackened its own security system, is clever in passing the buck to the state railway police, quoting legal jurisdiction. The hapless passengers are caught in the crossfire.
Our railways, the fourth largest in the world, are an integral part of the nation’s security system. For any security system to be adequate, the means to protect it have to be centrally directed and not dispersed through 28 different commands, as is the case in India now. The policing of the 65,000 km long railway track, thousands of railway stations and passengers is the legal responsibility of 28 (now 29) different states. As a result of this thoughtless provision, passengers are tossed between the police stations of different states if they have to report crimes. Many crimes go unreported. A disjointed policing of railway tracks and stations is the biggest threat to national security. Our rulers since 1947 have not realised this.
Writing on 18 March 2012, I called for drastic reforms in our Railway Police system, as 7,651 million passengers using the railways every year are greatly inconvenienced. Our callous system fails to take notice of this, quoting constitutional provisions. Our systemic error on policing was when our founding fathers, while drafting the Constitution, blindly copied some provisions from the colonial Government of India Act 1935, especially their Seventh Schedule, which was incorporated as the Seventh Schedule of our Constitution. They forgot that the 1935 Act was enacted by the British to “appease the diehards”, as Oxford professor David Steinberg had described. The diehards did not want a strong centre and hence put “public order” and “police” under the state list. The 1935 Act was passed when the Congress had become weaker after the Second Round Table Conference. Our colonial rulers wanted to divide and weaken the Independence movement. I had written about this several times, asking our constitutional pundits why this error had occurred. Till today no one has answered.
Why did the British government place the railway and village police under the “Provincial Government” while keeping “Federal Railways” on the “Federal list”? The reason was because the railways, which became a British government owned company in 1900, had to traverse through various princely states, who also owned railways. This was not the case after the integration of the Indian states. So why didn’t our rulers set up a composite railway police system all over the country like several other countries?
We also forget that the RPF predates our regular police. The RPF owes its origin to the “Railway Police” established in 1854 by the privately owned East Indian Railways. Our police was created only by the 1861 Police Act. Similarly, the British Stockton & Darlington Railway Police was set up in 1826, while their regular police was established in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel. The British Transport Police (BTP), under BTPA, has the sole responsibility of policing their 16,093 km railway track and 3,000 stations, besides investigating all railway crimes except in Northern Ireland. They have legal authority going beyond their jurisdiction for investigation. China, the third biggest railway network in the world, has a Ministry of Railway Police for the entire railway network. Sometimes their jurisdiction overlaps with the local police. Why cannot we think of having a similar system here? Please do not quote the Constitution, which has been amended 98 times, as Professor Dipankar Gupta remarked recently.
– V. Balachandran is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat