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Integrated transport security need of hour: experts

Each time disaster strikes, public transport authorities promise to implement changes to make the city safer for commuters. But many of them are knee-jerk reactions that are often rolled back, say security experts. Rajendra Aklekar examines...

india Updated: Dec 25, 2008 22:17 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

Each time disaster strikes, public transport authorities promise to implement changes to make the city safer for commuters.

But many of them are knee-jerk reactions that are often rolled back, security experts say. What the city needs instead is an integrated security system, experts say.

Following the July 2006 serial train blasts, the Western Railway removed all luggage racks from suburban trains as “they could be misused to plant bombs”, railway officials then said.

“But commuters protested and the railways had to put them all back within six months,” said S.P. Gupta of Railway Pravasi Sangh, a commuter rights body.

Changes were implemented after the September Delhi blasts too. “The BMC and the railways removed all dustbins from major public places such as subways at Churchgate and Mumbai CST stations, only to have them restored in some time,” Gupta said. He said the focus should be more on improving intelligence and preventive actions.

After the 2003 Ghatkopar bus blast, in which a bomb was planted under a BEST bus seat, BEST sealed the space under all seats in its buses. “We also blocked the open space near the entrance of double-decker buses as a preventive measure,” BEST chief spokesperson A.S. Tamboli said. “Besides, we are in the process of putting up an integrated security system that will include close circuit cameras in buses, and emergency control rooms.”

One noticeable change in the city after last month’s terror attacks is the increase in random security checks at railway stations, similar to those done at airports. These include checking passengers’ baggage.

At the city’s major railway stations, door-frame metal detectors, close-circuit television sets — and now sand pit posts — have become common.

“Luggage compartments of long-distance trains and the parcels they ferry are now checked more thoroughly for suspicious objects,” a senior security official attached to the railway security cell said on condition of anonymity.

Yet, “we seem to be just reacting to various types of terror attacks,” he said. “Instead, we need a system to counter terror strategically and forcefully.”