“At present, we have a sanctioned strength of around 800 GRP personnel, which is grossly inadequate for round-the-clock patrolling of the 2,217 km of railway tracks in the State. Moreover, 15 per cent of this strength is not available all the time because of various reasons,” a senior official in the State’s Department of Home said. “Protecting the vast railway network and so many trains in a Maoist-affected State is always a difficult task. Inadequate manpower makes it more formidable,” he added.
The GRP is responsible for prevention and detection of crimes, maintaining law and order and providing security to railway stations and trains. This includes guarding vital bridges and patrolling tracks. Around 200 trains crisscross both the railways districts of Cuttack and Rourkela in the State every day. A shortage of manpower in the railway police means more than half of these trains go unescorted while others have only four or five armed police personnel on board.
“Under these circumstances, passenger safety remains a major challenge. We escort the few important trains which we feel are vulnerable and leave others unescorted,” the source admitted. The Department of Home has moved the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in this regard as the number of trains is increasing every year and the railway tracks are spreading fast in the State while the sanctioned strength of the GRP has remained the same for the past two decades.
The source said that increasing the GRP’s strength is always a tough call because both the State and Union Governments need to agree on salaries and other recurring expenditures. It was decided way back in 2007 to improve the strength of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the GRP to improve the security in the trains. At that point of time, it was decided to work a joint action plan with the States emphasizing filling up of the vacancies in the RPF and Government Railway Police (GRP) forces. In the meantime RPF strength has improved a lot with 2,000 personnel in the East Coast Railway Zone while the GRP strength remains 828 only.