Passengers on Mumbai’s local trains remain sitting ducks nine years after the train blasts of July 11, 2006, as the railways are still struggling to secure several entry and exit points at various stations. Shockingly, even today, the Western Railway does not have gadgets such as baggage scanners to secure its stations.
While railway police officials claim that a project to secure unauthorised access points is under way, railway activists are furious at the authorities’ lackadaisical approach to security, saying it jeopardises the lives of its approximately 80 lakh daily users.
In 2006, bombs exploded in seven local trains between Mahim and Bhayandar stations, killing over 189 people and injuring 829 others. Following the blasts, the railways envisaged a plan to secure the 136 railway stations and their 469 platforms.
As a part of the plan, railway authorities installed high-end CCTV cameras at important stations under the Integrated Security System (ISS) program. Baggage scanners were also installed at these stations, which also cater to long-distance trains. However, almost a decade after the blasts, not a single station on the Western Railway has a baggage scanner.
Anand Jha, senior divisional security commissioner, Railway Protection Force (Western Railway), said, “The process of acquiring baggage scanners has been delayed for several reasons, including paucity of funds and the failure of suppliers to adhere to specifications of the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO). However, tenders to acquire four scanners have now been floated and we should get them in the coming quarter.”
But even if these scanners are installed soon, the railway’s security plan will continue to have glaring holes until several unauthorised entry and exit points at various stations – which allow passengers to bypass security – are plugged.
Another serious issue is a severe staff crunch in the two wings of the railway police – the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF). Because of this, many stations remain insecure and vulnerable to an attack.
Railway activist Samir Zaveri criticised railway authorities for not waking up despite the 2006 train blasts and the 26/11 terror attack, in which several commuters died at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). “Multiple access points pose the biggest threat to the security of railway stations. Every station has three or four official entry and exit points on paper. But in reality, many stations have at least five or six more unauthorised access points, which can be used to carry out an attack even today,” Zaveri.