Even as the Railways are busy picking up the pieces following a series of Naxal attacks across the country, causing it losses worth crores of rupees and major operational delays, the world’s largest carrier of train passengers is faced with a new threat — terrorists.
The Railway Board has sought to know from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) the steps it’s taking to protect luxury trains such as the Deccan Odyssey and the Maharaja Express from terror attacks.
Trains in UP are already on the terror radar: Mohd Salman — an Indian Mujahideen operative held in Azamgarh — has confessed that the terror group had plans to blow up the Palace on Wheels (a luxury train), along with bridges. The design was to kill foreigners and seek maximum publicity.
The Railway Board, routing a parliamentary supplementary to be asked on April 29, asked the RPF in Lucknow if terrorists were planning to attack major luxury trains. The letter has also sought to know if terror attacks such as 26/11 have affected ticket revenues of luxury trains such as the Deccan Odyssey and the Maharaja Express.
The Board asked the RPF here to furnish details of steps it’s taking to improve security for passengers and trains in view of such threats. Confirming this, RPF’s senior divisional security commissioner in Lucknow Akhilesh Chandra told HT, “Important mail and express trains are being escorted by the RPF in coordination with the GRP (Government Railway Police). From time to time plainclothes staff is being deployed on trains to keep a close watch on suspicious elements.”
Chandra said sniffer dogs and latest gadgets were being used to check passenger luggage. RPF officials are also conducting decoy checks.
The Railways are already working to improve safety and security in view of the Maoist threat. The major focus has been on the Rajdhani trains.
The Maoists have repeatedly targeted trains, especially the Rajdhanis. In October, two Maoists were arrested from Kaushambhi with arms and material used for making landmines. They were to target the Railways. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has already admitted that Maoist violence and bandhs have cost the Railways Rs 500 crore.