The city’s local trains continue to be unsafe for women commuters, with a 63% rise in cases of molestation and misbehaviour in 2014 (between January and July), as compared with the same period last year. Even with the alarming rise, however, the Government Railway Police (GRP) said many cases were still going unreported.
HT has over the past few years, through its reports, highlighted the issue of women’s safety on trains. In June 2011, the Bombay HC had taken cognisance of an HT report and asked the GRP and Railway Protection Force (RPF) to chalk out plans to ensure the safety of women commuters.
This year, 192 cases of misbehaving with women and molestation were reported on the Central Railway (CR) and 44 on the Western Railway (WR). This is a sharp rise from the 121 cases on CR and 24 on WR registered in 2013.
But even with the rise in the number of cases being reported, there is a glitch. Most of them have been registered under the Bombay Police (BP) Act — as preventive action. This is because the cases were reported by other commuters to the railway police helpline and not by the victims.
Such cases do not attract strict action and often, offenders are let off with Rs. 100 fine for misbehaving with women, according to the BP Act.
This year, of the 236 molestation cases registered, as many as 213 cases were registered under the BP Act and the accused was let off after paying a small fine.
“Several factors result in the application of the BP Act, which include non-availability of the complainant [the victim], or if the accusation is on a group and the allegations are not of a serious nature. There have been instances where male commuters travelling in the adjacent compartment witness some incidents and inform the helpline and thus suspects are apprehended and acted upon according to the BP Act,” said a GRP officer.
The GRP, however, said it is taking steps to ensure victims report cases. “We have been briefing our all-women squad to focus on making women commuters aware of the importance of reporting cases to the GRP. On our part, we are also trying to fix problems on the railway police helpline for a better response to callers,” said Dr Ravinder Singal, commissioner of police, GRP.