Stick-wielding attacks on Commuters in moving trains poses new threat to Mumbaikars, GRP on alert

MUMBAI: The railway police are worried that Thursday’s near-fatal attack by a stick-wielding robber in Navi Mumbai’s Rabale could mark the return of the deadly modus operandi, this time on the city’s newest railway line, the trans-harbour that links Navi Mumbai with Thane.

They are taking heart from the fact that they have had some success in cracking down on such robbers in Bandra on the Western line and Kurla on Central. The two stretches had turned so notorious for muggings that women commuters were wary of travelling near the footboard of coaches even during daytime.

The turning point was the Daksha Gugal case of January 2011. Gugal, a housewife, was knocked down by a robber to steal her mobile phone near Kurla and died of her injuries. Shaken up, security agencies undertook a massive drive to prevent a repeat.

“We have devised various methods to keep a check on stick-wielding robbers. Conducting combing operations in slum pockets close to the tracks, such as Naya Nagar, Ambika Nagar, is common. A majority of the robbers is drug addicts, so we keep cracking down on their dens,” said a senior GRP official on Central Railway.

For some time, the GRP joined hands with motormen. “In a few locals post-sunset, we would request motormen to allow one of our personnel to share his cabin. Whenever they noticed a man on a pole or wielding a stick, the motorman would slow down and the cop would pounce on the robber,” said the official. During monsoon, the robbers take cover in overgrown grass close to the tracks. They are usually dressed only in a pair of shorts so as to avoid getting caught by the shirt collar.

On the Western line, cops started identifying spots where such robberies were reported and deputed personnel there. “Bandra creek, Mahim bridge and the stretch outside Gaiety-Galaxy cinema were some of the locations identified. We arm our personnel with strong torches; the beam deters a robber from his antics as he detects police presence,” said another official. But the police have had their share of difficulties. “There’s a huge mosquito menace on the tracks post sunset. Our personnel have to keep mosquito repellant creams handy. Inadequate infrastructure is another huge hurdle. Areas where the fencing is incomplete or there are gaps in boundary walls can easily be used as entry/exits by criminals,” said the official.
Police have had their share of hurdles, the biggest one being inadequate infrastructure. “Areas where fencing is incomplete or there are gaps in boundary walls can easily be used as entry/exits by criminals,” said the official.

Before Thursday’s attack on Aarti Gholapkar by a stick-wielding robber in Navi Mumbai, the railway police had gained somewhat success on cracking down on this form of robbery in Bandra on the Western line and Kurla on the Central line. So notorious were these two stretches for muggings that women commuters were weary of travelling near the footboard of compartments even during daytime. The GRP is worried that Thursday’s case has marked the return of a modus-operandi that is potentially fatal for the victim.

A few years ago, a railway police constable had lost his life when a local mowed him down while he was chasing a crook across the tracks at Bandra.

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