Unease in RPF over Snooping by Central Railway can hit Suburban Security

Mumbai:  There is a growing unease within the Central Railway’s Railway Protection Force (RPF) over the apparent surveillance of its activities by railway authorities and this could impact the security operations particularly on the suburban section.

Tension has been brewing for some time, after the CR ordered that RPF personnel on night patrol must wear bullet-proof jackets. The jackets, the RPF says, are heavy and inconvenient and the men refused to use them.

Temperatures shot up a week ago, when the CR authorities ordered the video-shooting of the annual general meeting of the All-India RPF Association that was held at Wadi Bunder on Jan 8.

Functionaries of the association viewed the action as an attempt by the railway officials to spy on its activities. The association is a welfare body of personnel upto the rank of inspector. But officials have often accused its leaders of operating like a union.

The RPF is a paramilitary force and personnel are not allowed to engage in any form of union activities.

Tempers rose to such an extent that the two men (both RPF men) recording the proceedings were allegedly roughed up. AK Singh, Inspector General of the RPF Unit, intervened to pacify the association functionaries.

CR officials who ordered the video shooting say this was standard procedure for all such events where evidence might be required subsequently.

They explained that the video could help check absenteeism from work on that day, in case some personnel avoided duty to attend the association programme.

In fact, the meeting discussed two long-pending critical matters: the recruitment to fill up 18,000 vacancies in the force countrywide and 24,000 new personnel required for escort duty on suburban trains.

An estimated 40 lakh commuters use the CR’s suburban services daily.

On the matter of the bullet-proof jackets, a railway official said, “Some personnel do not want to wear it saying it is heavy and some quarters have put forward this excuse to demand a feasibility study. The jacket is part of the standard gear that is required to be worn. Tomorrow, the constabulary might well say they will not carry guns because of the weight of the weapon.”