Aiming to bring railway policing under a unified command, the government has decided to amend a five-decades-old law to allow the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to take total control of train and passenger safety.
The idea is to scrap the state-controlled General Railway Police (GRP) to end the dualism and confusion in matters relating to railway crimes.
The law ministry has given the green signal to a railways note incorporating these suggestions, a government source said. A bill to amend the RPF Act, 1957, is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. “We hope the proposal will come through,” railway board chairman Vivek Sahai told HT.
Most railway crimes have remained unsolved, largely on account of what is perceived to be a turf war between the RPF and the GRP. The unsolved crimes include the gruesome incident in February when a woman was pushed down a running train and raped on the tracks. Every train accident – including the one at Sainthia in West Bengal last year – has seen blame games between the Centre and the state governments concerned.
Pushing for scrapping the GRP, the railways have argued that they pay 50% of the cost to maintain this force, which is under the state governments.
A law ministry source said, “We have agreed with the view of the railways because multiple forces with lack of clarity is seriously hampering the security of passengers in such a huge network.”
“Since almost all the long-distance trains pass through many states even in a single journey, the issue of turf wars has resulted in nobody owning up responsibility for heinous crimes like rapes and even murders in trains. This has to stop,” the source said.
The railways run around 11,000 trains every day, of which 7,000 are passenger trains.
In the proposed new set-up, the RPF will have primary responsibility of safety and maintenance of law and order on all rail-related issues, with some assistance from the state police.
To overcome possible resistance from states to a unified command, the railways have suggested that entry 93 of the union list be invoked to bring the subject of railway policing to the concurrent list.
Provisions of the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act can also be invoked to empower the Centre to deal will all matters relating to railway policing, an official said.
Incidentally, the central government has already assumed powers to deal with matters concerning law and order (which is a state subject) through introduction of section 16 in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Act.
The Centre exercised these powers in Gujarat in the early 1990s.