Despite repeated warnings, there has been a 36% rise in the number of rooftop travellers on the main and harbour line of the Central Railway (CR) in the first five months of 2012, as compared to the same period in 2011. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has collected around Rs3.20 lakh as fine from rooftop travellers till May.
While 1,404 rooftop travellers were caught and Rs41,100 was collected as fine from them during January-May 2011, 1,904 persons were caught and Rs3,20,100 was collected in the same period in 2012.
From June 1 to 7, too, the RPF officials have caught 433 persons and collected a fine of Rs1,07,300.
According to RPF officials, rooftop travelling is not related to the rush in trains. Following several incidents of electrocution on the main and the harbour line of the Central Railway, the RPF has formed two special squads to focus on the troubled spots on the two routes.
CT Soares, assistant security commissioner, RPF, said: “We have formed two squads named ‘Yellow’ and ‘Blue’. The policemen, in civil dress, would operate like flying squads and cover as much area as possible. They would be rotated every 15 days. Also, three RPF officials have been deputed at every station to catch hold of rooftop travellers. We are trying our best to discourage people.”
Alok Bohra, senior deputy security commissioner, RPF, CR, said: “The offenders are mostly in the 20-30 age group. We have often found that their main aim is seek thrill and adventure in spite of the risk involved in it.”
“To our surprise, these persons are also aware of the high-voltage overhead wires and the chances of getting charred to death,” he said.
Strict action could dissuade youth: experts
MUMBAI: The age-old rules of the Railway Act that allow rooftop travellers to get away with a meagre fine nullify the efforts taken by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel, believe experts.
Though section 156 of the Railway Act allows a three-month jail term or a fine of Rs500 or both for rooftop travellers, the rate of those being sent to prison is negligible. On an average, the RPF catches 400 offenders a week. However, they are released by the court after paying anywhere between Rs200-500 as fine.
Legal experts believe that measures should be taken to nail the offenders, who pose a problem to both the RPF and the travellers. An RPF officer said, “The offenders sit atop the train even when it is empty. They come in contact with the overhead wire and get charred. These incidents are dangerous for even commuters who are inside the compartment because if the victim comes in contact with other travellers there can be further deaths. The train timetable also takes a beating as it takes at least 20-30 minutes to clear a train following an electrocution.”
YP Singh, IPS officer-turned-lawyer, said, “Those indulging in rooftop travel or stunts can be booked under section 336 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for rash or negligent behaviour endangering human life or personal safety of others. They should be sentenced to at least minimum of the prison terms, which is around one month. The Railway Act should be amended to introduce stringent measures.”
‘Youngsters often try to repeat stunts from movies for adventure’
MUMBAI: Central Railway’s senior deputy security commissioner of RPF, Alok Bohra, believes that peer pressure is one of the prime reasons behind the increase in the number of rooftop travellers.
What are the reasons behind the 36% rise in number of rooftop travellers?
Mostly, offenders are young illiterate boys who get influenced easily. They watch stunts in films and try to repeat them to make their train journey adventurous. They mainly want to seek thrill.
Apart from awareness drives, what other steps are being taken?
We have approached community leaders and secondary school students. Like last year, we plan to distribute pamphlets among students aged 10 and above in 30 schools. We will also hold joint sessions with community leaders to spread awareness about the hazards.
What role can the commuters play in it?
Commuters can actually warn rooftop travellers. People’s participation in the drive can work wonders.
Can strict legal action put an end to the problem?
Any law can’t help unless the offender realises the repercussions of his act. In many cases, youngsters are aware of the consequences but still want to indulge in it for cheap thrill. Such boys need counselling.