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RPF lacks staff to man stations

Thursday, July 12, 2018
By Jagruti Verma. Photograph by Azad Shrivastav

Twelve years ago, eleven bomb blasts had jolted the Western Line services. Yesterday, tribute was paid to the victims of ruthless violence at affected stations, including Mahim, Jogeshwari, Matunga, Santacruz, Borivali and Bandra. However, even as the pain is commemorated, defence is yet to be strengthened as can be clearly seen at suburban stations. “There isn't enough staff available to man every entry/exit point across suburban stations,” said a senior railway official.

Despite having technologically advanced gadgets like Door Frame Metal Detector and baggage checking machines, the force is unable to put it to proper use as it is not possible to deploy the number of officials required at such points. “Even a single bag checking machine requires three personnel to use it effectively, but it is not always possible to deploy the numbers,” said an official,

The issue non-availability of the number of personnel is extended to the numbers required to man the CCTV control rooms. So, while the railways have the gadgets required to provide safety, they simply don't have the number of officials needed to put these gadgets to effective use. Though efforts have been made to cover the entrance/exit points at major stations, small stations like several on Central and Harbour Line continue to not have even the bare minimum numbers.

When it comes to security at stations, apart from lack of personnel, the issue is of the scale at which frisking and checking would have to be done as a precautionary measure. A few years ago, a drill experiment had miserably failed within minutes at Churchgate station when the personnel had tried to frisk every commuter at entrance on a week day during evening peak hours. “It is next to impossible to frisk every commuter,” said an official. However, the official adds that during a high alert situation, the personnel can be deployed as is required and every person and vehicle is checked at station premises.

In the world of suburban railways, there are mainly two kinds of first responders at any scene: Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP). Though they work in harmony in terms of sharing their deployment schedules, the very fact that their legal jurisdictions are extremely different is a pain for commuters. To break it down to the simplest form, the RPF deals with the safety of railway properties and the GRP deals with the issues of passengers.
A normal commuter doesn't know the difference between a GRP and a RPF personnel and feels being wronged when the RPF staff tells them to approach the GRP in case of, say a theft of a wallet, said the official adding that even distinct uniforms won't make a difference as people simply tend to look out for an official in uniform in times of distress, irrespective of what it is. “It is not uncommon for even specialised commandos to be approached in such times,” said the official.

So, what can be done?

  • A single railway police force could make it easier for commuters to to secure help in times of distress.
  • Entry/exit points could be strategically decreased at important stations.
  • The sanctioned strength of personnel could be increased and vacancies filled.  
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