Manpower shortage in GRP derails plans to patrol unsafe railway stretches

Mumbai: The Government Railway Police, who had cracked down on pole robbers in the Bandra-Mahim belt, are pleading manpower constraints to explain their inability to monitor other unsafe stretches along the local train network. Slums close to the tracks, incomplete fencing and boundary walls are factors that make policing very tough, the force says. “In certain areas close to the tracks, robbers dig trenches and lie down to keep tabs on patrolling policemen. If a cop leaves his position to relieve himself or when his shift comes to an end, the robbers use the opportunity to strike,” said a GRP official. Now, the fact that the US national was attacked during the day has added to their list of worries.

It calls for action, like they took to discourage the pole robbers in the Bandra-Mahim belt. Robbers would climb railway poles and strike commuters when trains slowed down, mainly to steal the dropped cell phones or wallets. After a spate of complaints, the Bandra GRP identified the problem locations, like Mahim bridge and Bandra creek. Personnel with powerful torches were deputed. Senior officials patrolled the stretch to deter the miscreants. Besides, the cops found that most of the offenders were juveniles. The police started counselling them and involved their parents as well.

Women commuters have often complained of feeling unsafe as youths barge into their compartments and perform stunts or get on rooftops and target them. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) said they conduct regular drives control the problem, but it is clearly not enough.

For instance, a regular problem now is rowdy revellers travelling to the Siddhivinayak temple around daybreak by train. GRP officials said they have been inundated with complaints of the groups harassing commuters, especially between Elphinstone and Santa Cruz stations.

“They board the last few locals to reach Dadar by 2am. They then visit the Siddhivinayak temple and hang around till the first local at 4am. For the next two hours, they are on their worst behaviour. They hit passing commuters, whistle at women, pull their dresses or call patrolling policemen names,” said an official. Most of the revellers caught so far were in their twenties and had come from the Vasai-Virar belt.