Security train is running late by indefinite hours
A journey on Indian railways is fraught with risks to life and property and no one seems to be worried
WHAT CAN you buy with Rs 2.86? Not much you would say, what with such a high inflation rate. Well Indian railways spends only that much amount on your security in a year. With stations left unguarded, trains running without escorts and thousands of vacancies for security personnel yet to be filled, such a low expenditure is apparent. A report prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) threadbares the reasons why India’s most preferred mode of transport has become a risky proposition for its riders.
With a network spread over 64,015 km and 7,030 stations, Indian rail has a tough job at hand. However, the fact that most of the recommendations given by a high-powered committee on security have been hanging fire for last four years weakens any defence.
The terrorist attack in 2008 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST) station and derailing of trains due to sabotage in naxal or terrorist-dominated areas underscores the importance of having a systematic approach to deal with the security issue.
Railway stations have been identified as the most vulnerable assets of railways, followed by trains and then railway tracks including bridges and crossings. A high-level committee constituted in 2007 had identified 202 stations all over the country and Metro, Kolkata, as sensitive for terrorist/insurgent attack.
The committee had recommended that big railway stations should be decongested of the unmanageable crowd on their platforms since it posed a security threat. Due to unauthorised entry/exit points, most of the railway stations serve as shelters for homeless and destitute people while unauthorised coolies and vendors also find their way in easily.
In and out of it In almost all the 74 stations examined by CAG, entry into the station premises was found to be unrestricted as there were multiple entry/exit points. No guards were provided at any of the authorised entry points at 19 stations whereas only 28 per cent of the 175 unauthorised entry/exit points were found to be guarded.
Door framed metal detectors were provided at only 39 per cent of authorised entry points while CCTV networks were installed at only 38 of 74 stations checked. Even at these stations, the images captured were of poor quality rendering the whole exercise useless. The facility of X-ray luggage scanners was available at less than 10 per cent of the stations.
Railway Board had issued directions to all Zonal Railways in 2006 to acquire bomb detection and disposal equipments and form bomb disposal squads in each division. While 28 officials were trained for this purpose in Western Railways, no squad had been formed till March 2011. The equipment procured at a cost of Rs 2.24 crore is gathering dust in stores. Similar situation prevails in other railway zones as well.
Short of hands
The shortage in Government Railway Police (GRP) which looks after the safety of passengers on the train and station invited sharp criticism from CAG. This is because crime against passengers including murder and robbery, increased by 15 per cent during last five years. While the number of passengers travelling on Indian railways increased by 29 per cent from 5,725 million in 2005-06 to 7379.94 million in 2009-10, the deployment of GRP personnel increased by only 3.37 per cent in the same period. In fact, the situation is graver because many of the criminal cases go unreported.
Crimes are generally discovered or reported only when the passengers reach their destination. Even if a crime is discovered early, the report can only be made at the next station. Since passengers have little time to file the First Information Report (FIR) with the GRP, there is under reporting of criminal cases in trains.
To sort out this issue, the Railway Board had issued instructions way back in 1997 that FIR forms should be made available with coach attendants, conductors and guards and they should hand over the filled in FIR forms to the GRP for registration of cases. However, it was found that passengers are still facing problems because in many cases, the forms were found to be unavailable with the staff.
Slackness is also noticed in formation of dog squads. Only 292 dogs had been recruited against the sanctioned strength of 405 and even those enrolled were found to be inefficient. From the monthly reports of dog squads in South Central Railway, it was observed that there was not a single case of crime detected by dogs between 2005 and 2010 whereas the 12 dogs hired by Western Railways were unable to locate and identify gunpowder and explosives since they had been given no training for the same.
In last five years the rate of sabotage on railway tracks by terrorist/naxalites has increased manifold. In 2009 there were 26 incidents of blowing up of rail tracks. In addition, there had been 115 cases of ‘rail roko’ agitations few of which were spread over a period of three weeks between April and December 2010. This led to cancellation of more than 1,500 passenger trains and diversion of another 1,500 trains over longer routes while more than 3,500 were rescheduled on account of such disruptions. During 2010 the railways have lost about Rs 504.62 crore on account of these agitations. While the Indian Railways claims that it’s the responsibility of the respective state governments to ensure smooth flow of train traffic, CAG suggested better coordination with the governments to avoid such incidents.