For the past two weeks, we have been bombarded with promises by the government, railways and police force about making the railway commute safer for women.
Home minister RR Patil spoke to women commuters last week, promising better security. But sadly, Mr Patil, these promises are clearly on paper.
My experience with the railway helpline and security system on Saturday has made me believe that carrying a pepper spray and a sharp object to attack offenders is the only way to protect ourselves.
I boarded the women's first class compartment of a Churchgate-bound train from Bandra at 10.11am. As I entered the train, around 7-8 school-going teenage boys were creating a ruckus inside the compartment.
They were passing lewd remarks at two school uniform-clad girls seated in one corner of the compartment. I shouted at them and asked them to get off. They did so, but as soon as the train started moving, all of them got on again.
I looked around and the newly pasted posters displaying numbers for helplines had been torn and the numbers scratched off. I called 100 (this was at 10.21am).
The woman at the other end told me to call 1726. When I called 1726 at 10.22am and said it was an emergency, they said they would not be able to send anyone immediately to the next station. I told them to send someone whenever they could.
The boys saw me making frantic calls and got off at Mahim. I pacified the girls who got off as well. I looked out at all stations after that and saw no constables near any compartment. Nobody even called to check if everything was fine.
When I called Mahim Swamy, inspector general, western region, RPF, he expressed concern over the incident. “Trains travel so fast that even if the next station is informed, the train would have passed the station by then. We will look into the matter,” he said.
GRP commissioner Prabhat Rathod said they would have responded if they had been called. “About the torn posters, commuters should maintain property inside a train. We have told the railways to fix metal embossed messages, but that hasn’t happened.” Rathod said.
So much for the million promises.