मुंबई Mumbai: The railway establishment was left embarrassed after the wife of one of its hierarchy’s top-most officers was robbed in the prestigious 12951 Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, in the wee hours of Friday.
Preeti Sood, the wife of Central Railway General Manager S.K.Sood, was in coach A3, when her purse containing cash, debit and credit cards and a gold bangle, were apparently stolen when the train was somewhere between Ratlam in MP and Kota in Rajasthan. Another passenger, Dipika Chawla, also lost her purse around the same time. The train, which left Mumbai Central around 5pm on Thursday, traverses the Ratlam to Kota stretch between half-an-hour past midnight and around 3:30am.
A station house officer at New Delhi railway police station told that as per the reports filed by the two ladies, the losses for Sood included Rs.10,000 in cash and a 15 gram gold bangle. Chawla reported a loss of Rs.50,000 in cash and a 20 gram gold chain.
Officials said that since the 2nd AC coaches still have curtains unlike the 3rd AC ones, which have no curtains, thus making the job easier for the thieves as it might have been difficult for passengers to see them with the curtains drawn.
Incidentally, the WR Senior Commandant of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) Anand Vijay Jha, was travelling in the same train. Officials said Jha played sleuth and questioned several of the staff to get a clearer understanding of the theft but was unable to make much headway. The commotion, however, forced the thieves to leave the two purses in the toilet of the same coach with all their items intact expect the cash. A senior RPF officer said that it is possible that the thieves might have had a ticket and managed to gotten off either at Kota or Delhi.
CR GM SK Sood, confirmed the incident and said that his wife had filed an FIR and the railway police was investigating the case. “It is unfortunate and I’m sure the security agencies will be able to catch the people involved,” said Sood.
The embarrassment got the entire railway hierarchy cracking with even a dog squad pressed into service to catch the thieves when the train pulled into New Delhi station on Friday morning.
In Mumbai, WR divisional railway manager Shailendra Kumar, called a meeting on Friday of all traveling ticket examiners (TTEs) posted on both the Rajdhani and the August Kranti, to give them a list of do’s and don’ts.
Kumar said, “This is a serious issue. All TTEs have been ordered to keep a closer watch on the train, on passengers and to check if anyone is getting off midway. They have been asked to take extra measures regarding the security and safety of passengers.”
For the railways, it clearly means that on-train security and safety for passengers is currently at its worst. “When a train like the Rajdhani is targeted, you know it is a bad time for the passengers. It is a train in which most of the top officials of both CR and WR travel. The number of security personnel on board (Rajdhani) is higher than almost all other trains except those which travel through Naxal hotbeds. It is a shame,” said a senior railway official.
“I believe it was a lady thief” -Preeti Sood
“There were enough security personnel on the train. So I don’t think lack of security was the main reason for the thefts. It might have been a lady because a man carrying a purse would have aroused suspicion. Since there have been some cases of theft reported on the train in the past couple of days, it could be the handiwork of an organised gang, which might be travelling on the train as bonafide passengers. I woke up at 4:30am and that’s when I found the bag missing. The other incident also occurred around the same time. Hopefully, the security agencies will catch the people involved.”
Another Robbery on Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, 3rd day in a row
Another robbery on the Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express early on Saturday morning, the third in a series of robberies, has left the railways red-faced. The train leaves Mumbai Central around 4.30 in the evening and reaches New Delhi the next day around 8.30 in the morning.
Who’s the passenger and what did she lose?
Nidhi Agarwal, from Navi Mumbai’s Khargar, (A4, 27), lost her handbag with Rs6,000 in cash, a mobile phone, a tablet, and jewellery.
What about security on the train?
“It is atrocious,” Agarwal said. “This is a premium train and there are no policemen or Railway Protection Force personnel on board. Even the ticket-checking staff do nothing but plead helplessness when they are confronted.”
What is the rule?
Rajdhani is the only train that doesn’t have any RPF men on board. Other trains are escorted from one state to another by an RPF personnel or police party consisting of four cops.
Does the railways take any precautions?
Nothing. Agarwal said she asked the train staff to “close all doors so that no one gets off the train till it reaches New Delhi”. “While I was told that at Delhi all exits will be manned by cops, nothing of that sort happened. It is very inconsiderate on the part of the railways.”
Which is the cursed stretch?
It is between Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh and Kota in Rajasthan, sometime around 12.30am-3.30am, when passengers find their bags and valuables stolen. After Kota, the next stop is New Delhi.
The past incident
Saturday’s incident comes a day after CR general manager SK Sood’s wife found her handbag stolen. She was in A3 when her handbag containing cash, debit and credit cards and a gold bangle, was stolen.
Was it on the same stretch?
Yes, the train was between Ratlam and Kota.
What does the railways have to say?
Most robberies happen in 2nd AC coaches because of curtains; that help robbers, an official said. 3rd AC ones do not have curtains.
What steps has the railways taken?
In Mumbai, WR divisional railway manager Shailendra Kumar called a meeting on Friday afternoon of all travelling ticket examiners (TTEs) posted on both the Rajdhani and the August Kranti to give them a long list of dos and don’ts. “This is a very serious issue. All TTEs have been ordered to keep tabs on passengers and to check if anyone is getting off the train midway. They have been asked to take an active part in the security of the train and ensure the safety of passengers,” Kumar told.
Any change in security plans
In the wake of these thefts, the RPF plans to deploy some personnel in the Ratlam-Kota stretch when the train moves from Mumbai to Delhi and in the Ratlam-Vadodara stretch on the Delhi-Mumbai leg.
Is there any insurance
There is no concept whatsoever of insurance on the railways even if a passenger is travelling with a confirmed ticket on any class. There is something called ‘railway’s risk’ — somewhat similar to insurance when one is transporting valuables like gold etc. But it involves too much paperwork and passengers generally avoid going for it. In fact, trains, stations too are not insured.
What are the Allahabad HC recommendations on commuter safety
Addresses to be noted down of all season pass-holders. Railways should expedite work on an All-India helpline number on the pattern of the US’s 911 or the European Union’s 112. The number should be a maximum of three digits. Rail employees on trains such as ticket examiners, coach attendants, catering staff should be trained to help the RPF, if need be. Security agencies should be given short range weapons instead of obsolete 303 rifles. The HC has asked railways to get cracking on people boarding reserved coaches with general or season tickets. Use sections 145, 147, 155 and 162 of the Railway Act, its says. Two berths in any sleeper coach should be given to RPF. The railways has allotted one seat (S1, 63). A mike should be fitted near alarm chains for passenger to talk to guards who in turn will speak to security personnel, should the need arise.
Plain-cloth cops on Rajdhani after spate of robberies
Shaken by three incidents of robbery on three consecutive days on the premier Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, the railways have deployed RPF personnel in plainclothes inside its coaches.
A senior Western Railway security official said, “We have increased the presence of security personnel in the coaches that had been targeted. There will also be plainclothes policemen in the train to keep an eye on suspects.”
The railways have also lined up plans to install CCTV cameras in all long-distance trains. Arunendra Kumar, Chairman, Railway Board, told, “For this to happen, though, we will have to first conduct trials. To begin with, such cameras could be installed in Rajdhani class trains.”
Asked whether any insider was involved in the crimes, Kumar said, “Since investigation is underway, it will be premature to speculate.”
In the three incidents, a total of six women, including the wife of a Central Railway’s general manager, were robbed of cash, jewellery, mobile phone and cards. The crimes took place in II-Tier coaches. While the August 7 incident happened on the Mumbai-bound train, the other two took place on New Delhi-bound services on August 8 and 9.
The spate of crimes have made passengers of the popular train jittery.
Chartered accountant Ashwini Dikhshit, who was to board the train at Mumbai Central on Monday, said, “After I read about the theft, I decided to buy a luggage chain as I don’t want to take any chances.” Wadala’s Santosh Gupta has decided against carrying valuables. Sion’s Satinder Singh, who had come to drop off her sister, said, “I have advised her against keeping her cellphone in the purse. She is also carrying little cash.”