Our duty is to protect Railway Property, not commuters; RPF

MUMBAI: From running a couple of fully escorted rakes for woman commuters at night to reducing the number of ladies compartments, suggestions to prevent crimes against women on suburban trains were floated in a closed-door meeting between senior security officials on Tuesday.

Even as the proposals were made, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) officer said their first concern was the protection of railway property.

Rattled by the recent incident of molestation of a nurse on a running local, Government Railway Police (GRP) commissioner Prabhat Kumar met Alok Bohra, a senior RPF officer with the Central Railway, to discuss woman commuters’ security, particularly after dusk.

At present, the GRP allots 388 constables for night escort duty, a number that is far below the requirement. RPF officers stated their inability to allot men for the job as they, too, face manpower problems. There is a 49% vacancy for RPF constables on the Western line, while a 52% vacancy exists on the Central line.

“We have been sanctioned 300 home guards on WR and 350 on CR, but on average 50% of them are not available on duty,” an RPF officer said. “If the entire number of home guards sanctioned is actually made available, we could divert half of them towards night escort duty.”

Another RPF officer said it was impossible to provide men for night escort duty on locals in the current manpower scene.

“At present, our men guard signal posts and patrol yards as drug addicts steal copper and cables from there. We escort long-distance trains and prosecute illegal travellers on locals,” the officer said.

Sources said that Devraj Kanka, arrested for molesting the nurse, should have been externed in the past as he already has a lengthy crime record. “Police officers who had arrested Kanka in the past should have been keeping a tab on his activities after his release on bail. The fact that he was freely roaming in a morning train, looking for a target to rob, shows an intelligence failure on the part of the police machinery,” a source said.