Even as the country was agitated about the Gujarat stalking case and the Tehelka scandal, another ‘tehelka’ happened in another part of the country, an equally ghastly incident but only that not many seem to be too exercised about it. Earlier this week, 93 young girls and their three women teachers from Carmel School in Dhanbad and Digwadih in Jharkhand were molested on board a train when they were returning from Patna after attending a two-day environmental camp.
Their harrowing experience, which lasted for nearly four hours, began on the night of November 23: the group reached the Patna railway station and found that their seats on the Ganga-Damodar Express were occupied by men who claimed to be examinees of the railway recruitment test. They refused to leave the seats and when the teachers protested, they as well the students were harassed and molested.
Incidents like these — of varying scales — are not uncommon on Indian trains especially during rush seasons. Having said that, there are several questions that have been unanswered even three days after the incident: first, why were the doors of a reserved compartment not locked? How did the men get into the train in the first place? Where was the ticket collector? Where were the security guards?
Even if they were patrolling the coaches, is there no way of relaying information that help is needed in some other part of the train? After the teachers registered a complaint, the Railways have suspended five officials including a sub-inspector of the Government Railway Police for the lack of security and not helping the students. A clear case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. In fact, the constables and the ASI on duty had disappeared from the scene.
According to reports, platform number 10 from where the students boarded the train is the most unsafe one in the station. The first bomb exploded on the day of Narendra Modi’s Hunkar rally on this platform and yet the authorities did not have much security there.
Once incidents such as these happen and security officers are caught napping, the routine excuse is lack of personnel and funds to ensure safety. On the other hand, funds that are available are not being used. After the December 16 gang-rape, the Union government had set up a Rs 1,000-crore corpus to make cities safer for women and empower them. But, according to news reports, not even a paisa has been released because the finance minister is yet to identify relevant schemes that can be funded. Meanwhile incidents of abuse continue to happen with frightening regularity and in an ever more brazen manner.