The recent Naxal offensive against the Railways in different parts of the country has forced the Railway Protection Force (RPF) here into initiating measures aimed at enhanced track patrolling, better train escorting and access control at stations.
RPF of the Lucknow division of North Eastern Railway has teamed up with gangmen — otherwise supposed to ensure maintenance of tracks — for track patrolling. Senior Divisional Security Commissioner Akhilesh Chandra told Hindustan times, “Gangmen, who work under the engineering department of the Railways, have the maximum experience of the tracks and they are most aware of the vulnerability aspects.”
Officials say there a shortage of RPF personnel. Hence, the combination. “Plus, every gangman has his own jurisdiction. This helps immensely in patrolling,” said Chandra.
Take, for example, the North Eastern Railway areas bordering Nepal. The Gonda-Anandnagar-Navtanwa and Gonda-Nanpara sections are deemed vulnerable. The RPF is focusing on maximum sensitisation in such areas. The cops are being told to ensure, at any cost, there is no sabotage such as removal of fishplates to avoid Jhargram-like incidents.
In Uttar Pradesh, three districts — Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli — are termed Naxal-hit and the state government has sounded an alert these areas. “There is a huge risk involved. Every day, a large number of trains to Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Ranchi and North Eastern states pass through these districts. RPF and GRP have been told to escort trains and work in tandem with the local police,” said a senior police officer.
Chandra has also raised a dedicated train escorting company. “Modalities are being worked out. Duty of personnel is being reoriented and at places where there is no proper utilization of the workforce, streamlining is being done,” he said. Senior RPF officials of the Lucknow division of North Eastern Railway will on Tuesday meet to deliberate on similar issues.
‘NAXAL THREAT IN PRIMARY STAGE’
There are normally three stages of Naxalism — survey and identification of potential Red zones, community development programmes and finally establishment of strongholds and running of parallel governments as seen in areas such as Jharkhand and West Bengal. In UP, the phenomenon is mostly in the first stage as there are not enough data or evidence to suggest otherwise. But the RPF is preparing itself for any eventuality in the future as well.
Akhilesh Chandra, top RPF official
ON NAXAL RADAR
UP has for long been on the Naxal radar. The Railways has routinely asked the RPF in Lucknow to detail the current state of safety and security in view of the Maoist threat. Only a day before the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express was held hostage in West Bengal in October, two Maoists were arrested from Kaushambhi. They were planning to target the Railways in several districts of Uttar Pradesh. In April, Kobad Ghandy had to deboarded at Allahabad after the Delhi Police learnt that Maoists could hijack the Howrah-bound Rajdhani Express to free the Maoist ideologue. The same month, a powerful bomb was found on Sampark Kranti Express at Mahoba. Experts said the bomb had Naxal imprints on it.