Security backfires on men-in-uniform Railway withdraws armed train escorts

Jamalpur Jn. (JMP) / Jhajha (JAJ):  The railways, faced with a manpower crunch, have withdrawn armed escort parties from trains in the Kiul-Asansol main and Kiul-Sahebganj loop sections from last evening to stop Maoists from looting sophisticated weapons.

Senior police officers, who had rushed to Jamalpur after the Maoists ambushed Sahebganj-Danapur Intercity Express on November 30, on their return to Patna decided to withdraw armed escorts from the trains running on the two sections from December 1 evening. The rebels killed 3 GRP escort party members and looted five sophisticated weapons from them. The officers conducted marathon meetings to counter the security lapses on trains and took the decision.

“Now, we would have to pray to God for protecting us from rebels,” said a passenger, Bablu Karmakar, at Bhagalpur. Meanwhile, combing operations have been launched in all four directions of the site of occurrence.

Sources said the probe has been started under deputy inspector-general of police, rail, K.S. Anupam. GRP, Jamalpur registered an FIR against Arvind Yadav, the former area commander of CPI(Maoist), Dharhara, and Nageshwar Koda and 40 unknown people on the basis of the statement of Mohammad Imtiyaz Ali, an injured BMP-12 constable, one of the survivors in the incident.

Superintendent of railway police, Jamalpur, Amitav Das, however, said: “Only armed security was replaced with lathi-wielding GRP to escort the train temporarily on the two sections. Faced with a manpower crisis, it is not wise to provide sophisticated weapons to the less stronger escort parties.”

At that time, RPF director-general Pradeep Kumar Mehata told the reporters at Jamui that security arrangements would be tightened in the two sections and better co-ordination among GRP, RPF and CRPF deployed in the region would be worked out. Mehata had added that director-general of police Abhayanand would also monitor the operations himself.

The tall claims, however, have not taken off the ground and there has been no change in security on running trains for their passengers.

Mehata said the GRP manpower would be increased and the armed escorts would be revived on trains. Echoing Das, divisional railway manager, Malda, Ravindra Gupta said: “RPF, owing to manpower crisis, has long withdrawn armed escorts from trains on the Kiul-Sahebganj loop section.”

Gupta added that he would soon write letters to authorities concerned, suggesting them to adopt appropriate security measures. “I am not going to share the contents of the letters with you but I would focus on proper security arrangements for running trains and passengers,” said Gupta over the telephone.

“After the Maoist attack on the GRP station at Jhajha railway station and looting of the GRP armoury on April 13, 2008, armed RPF escorts were withdrawn from the Kiul-Asansol main section. Since then, our personnel have been carrying batons with them,” said Karamvir Kumar, inspector, Jhajha RPF post.

Lokesh Kumar, a daily commuter, said: “Incidents of snatching, molestation and theft of passengers’ belongings are common on trains in both sections. But to some extent, the presence of armed escorts had checked those. Now, they would be back.”