Beginning on Sunday, every person commuting between Mumbai's suburbs and the city's two main railway terminus - Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) - will be frisked by railway officials in a massive security exercise.
The security drill, being touted as the biggest ever on the railway network's history, is being undertaken in an effort to find out whether such a large scale exercise is feasible if and when needed.
Post the July 11 serial bombings on rush-hour commuter trains, which killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds, railway authorities want to test their own preparedness to frisk at least one out every five commuters passing though these two terminuses.
"On November 12, 13 and 14, every commuter coming in or stepping out of Churchgate and CST will be frisked by railway police. It is an exercise to check if it is feasible to frisk at least one out of every five commuters passing through these stations daily," said a senior Western Railway public relations officer here.
"At Churchgate alone, over 500 personnel of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and railway police officers will conduct the exercise. This apart, hundreds of other officials from the Mumbai Police and central intelligence agencies in mufti will be engaged in the exercise," R Prilanban, senior public relations officer of Western Railways said.
To test the effectiveness of the security drill, both Central and Western Railways, which operate local commuter and long distance trains from the two stations, are planning to frisk commuters during the peak morning and evening hours, when crowds of around 1,300-1,500 surge into the stations.
Between them, the two stations witness some 2.5 mn commuters daily. Although security has been beefed up at all the station on the entire railway network in the city and its suburbs, manned mostly by the RPF, the three-day security drill will witness participation from Mumbai Police, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and central intelligence agencies.
Maharashtra police chief PS Pasricha said the Mumbai railway stations would soon see a security system at par with the best around the globe.
"We need better security for our local railway stations. A proposal has been forwarded to the central government for its sanction. If it is sanctioned, Mumbai would soon see a security system as par with the most developed nations," Pasricha said.
"Every minute, 1,000 people enter CST. We are trying to maximise checking and will put the drill into practice during the three days. We will try our best to put these security measures into order on a permanent basis at the earliest," said V.H. Shiddu chief security commissioner, Central Railways.
"To begin with, every exit at CST and Churchgate will be fitted with door-frame metal detectors and two dog squads will be on stand-by. There will also be security personnel checking passengers and screening luggage with hand-held metal detectors. The passengers will be frisked manually too," added Chief Security Commissioner of Western Railway Lalit Kumar.
"Initially we are planning to hire the security equipment to see how it is beneficial to us. We will later buy them for permanent use. We intend to add X-ray machines at every exit point at both Churchgate and CST," said Shiddu.