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Cash-rich rlys have no money for your security

Terrorist attack at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station a year ago doesn't seem to have made railways any wiser, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

delhi Updated: Nov 27, 2009 00:12 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

Terrorist attack at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station a year ago doesn't seem to have made railways any wiser.

Indian Railways, bubbling with a surplus of over Rs 12,000 crore, has refused to fund a large part of a plan to secure stations in Delhi and nearby regions across North India against terrorist attacks and other security threats.

The proposal for an integrated security system in Delhi area and 28 other stations across the Northern Railway network required around Rs 128 crore — a drop in the ocean by railway standards.

But the ministry refused to fund over 50 per cent of that amount, and after heavily stripping the needs for security installations, sanctioned only around Rs 63 crore.

"The ministry had various reasons for not giving the money," said a senior official at the railway ministry who did not wish to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to the media. "Usually in government-funding requirements, some overestimation does take place. But it is never so much that more than 50 per cent is skimmed off. Several important purchase requirements too have been shot down."

As per fund sanction documents accessed by HT, the pennywise Railway ministry

has cut down on many requirements without any reason.

In some stations, it has pruned the number of CCTVs and the number of baggage X-ray machines.

In some other cases in Delhi, it has reduced the number of sophisticated close-range combat tools such as portable bulletproof shield for groups (in case someone saunters in to the station with an AK-47), and suchlike.

In many cases, the ministry cut down on funds when it came to purchasing explosive detection devices and sniffer dogs.

And for 10 stations in the Capital, the railways have cut down the fund requirement to one-third of the plan.

A major area where funds have been slashed is access control — the installations that prevent or regulate the entry of potential threats into the premises.

The Ministry refused to fund major chunks of boundary walls around stations, erection of fences and other access restrictions along tracks, etc, in Delhi and elsewhere.

At one of the stations, it refused to fund control rooms for access and regulation. It has asked Northern Railways to fund all this by itself, sanctioned by the General Manager, who has the powers.

"We take security matters seriously on all aspects, including financial," said Anil Saxena, deputy director general, public relations, Railway Ministry. "The funds have been sanctioned after appropriate scrutiny to meet essential security requirement."

A Northern Railway spokesman refused to comment saying the matter pertained to the Ministry.