In the second attack in less than a month on a woman travelling alone on Mumbai’s locals, a 28-year-old American national was robbed of her mobile phone and bag by an unidentified man between Marine Lines and Charni Road stations on Sunday evening.
The victim, Michelle Mark, who has been working with an NGO in the city for a year, had boarded a first-class women’s compartment of a Borivli-bound slow local from Churchgate at 4.27pm. Spotting her alone, an unidentified man boarded the compartment at Marine Lines station and tried to snatch her iPhone. When she resisted, he attacked her with a blade. She suffered two cuts to her cheek, two to her neck and a few bruises on her hands, police said.
The assailant jumped off the train at Charni Road and fled with the victim’s phone and bag. The woman, bleeding from her wounds, managed to get off at the next station, Grant Road. Some commuters then took her to the station master at Mumbai Central, where the Government Railway Police and the Railway Protection Force squabbled over who would take her to a hospital.
There were no policemen on the train and no one else in the women’s compartment.
Policemen are posted in the ladies compartments of all suburban trains only between 8.30 pm and 6.30 am.
Michelle was later taken to Nair hospital where she was admitted to the trauma ward. Her condition, officials said, was stable as the cuts were not too deep.
Doctors at the Nair hospital said Michelle has suffered minor abrasions all over her body. Her friends and relatives arrived at the hospital soon after and she was discharged around 10.30 pm on Sunday.
“We have sutured her wounds that she sustained owing to the blade attack on her right side of neck,” said Dr M Shah, the deputy dean of Nair Hospital in Sion, where she was taken.
“We have registered a case under Indian Penal Code section 392 for robbery. We are checking for CCTV footage at Charni Road and Marine Line stations to identify the accused,” said said B Shirsat, deputy commissioner of police, GRP.
“Further investigation is underway,” he added.
Should a Sunday mean no cops on women’s coaches?
Women have been attacked on local trains with alarming regularity, with the numbers increasing sharply in recent times. But the compartments designated for them, supposedly to make their journeys safer, remain unguarded during the day and often on holidays.
The Railways attributes the lack of patrolling to a staff crunch.
This was more than apparent on Sunday. There was no police official on board the first class women’s compartment that 28-year old US national Michelle Mark was travelling in when she was attacked, a fact deputy commissioner of police (Western Railway) B Shirsat confirmed. Shirsat’s reasoning for this was that police are deployed on patrolling duty only between 8.30pm and 6.30am every day.
Sources in the Government Railway Police (GRP) said their plans to deploy constables at all hours in women’s compartments, after a spate of attacks, has been stalled because of a massive shortage of personnel. Sources said although the patrolling is to take place every day, on holidays it is often lax or non-existent.
“We had asked for 100 personnel two years ago, but the railway authorities are yet to sanction them despite facing flak from the Bombay high court. The staff strength has not been increased in the recent years and we have no option but to work with the available staff,” said a source.
Taking cognisance of a Hindustan Times report, the Bombay high court had, in June 2011, asked the GRP and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to chalk out safety plans for women commuters. In the same month, after an HT report on the molestation of a 25-year-old Nerul resident in a Vashi local, the railway protection force (RPF) obtained a sanction to engage 300 home guards to patrol the railway stations. Of these, 10% were going to be women home guards.
This scheme should have been rolled out by January last year, as but officials said it is yet to be executed in its entirety.