Railway authorities have over the past few years come up with elaborate — and often ambitious — plans to ensure that women are safe on the city’s local trains. But statistics from the railway police commissionerate show that the number of molestation cases reported on the suburban network has more than doubled since 2011.
Taking cognisance of a Hindustan Times report in June last year, the Bombay high court had asked the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to chalk out concrete security plans for women commuters. Although these have been implemented to an extent, they are far from proving completely effective.
In a scheme that was to be executed in January this year, the railway police got permission to engage about 600 home guards to patrol railway stations in the city. Of these, 10% were supposed to be women home guards, specially assigned to protect women commuters. But officials say not much has come of it.
“Of the 300 home guards sanctioned to for us [Western Railway], we have been able to engage around 150 to 200. Of these, around 50 are women,” said Mahim Swamy, inspector general, Railway Protection Force, Western Railways.
Central Railway too has been able to engage only around 200 home guards of the nearly 300 it was sanctioned.
A massive staff crunch has also prevented the GRP from deploying as many constables in ladies’ compartments as they had originally planned, sources said.
“We have police personnel in ladies’ coaches in the morning. At night, two constables guard each local train. The staff strength has not increased in recent years and we have no option but to work with the people available,” said GS Bhandare, deputy commissioner of police (central railways).
The railway police said the Bombay high court had in November last year taken suo motu of another report and rapped railway authorities for inefficient security measures. As a reaction, the railway police formed two task forces to prevent crimes against women. These task forces, Swamy said, had women constables on constant patrol who were given the power to conduct random searches on trains to ensure safety.
“We have helplines to cater to women’s grievances. As soon as a woman reports a grievance, the task forces react immediately and provide the required assistance,” Swamy said.
He also said the police have launched a “massive” drive this year to arrest male passengers who enter compartments allocated for women leading to the arrest of thousands.
However, if statistics from the railway police commissionerate are to be taken at face value, the measures have far from stopped women from facing harassment on trains. Till November this year, 19 cases of molestation were reported on the Central, Western and Harbour lines. Last year, only eight such cases were reported, while 2010 saw 15 similar incidents. The GRP registered seven cases under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) till November this year, while only three such cases were reported in 2011 and two in 2010.