Imagine this: it is post-midnight and you think taking the train back home would be the safest option. But you are not aware that the railway station would be deserted, with no policeman to turn to for help.
Several commuters say they feel vulnerable travelling late in the night since there are no police personnel in trains or at stations between 11pm and 6am.
"I usually take the last train from CST to Nerul. After Dadar, you would rarely find a policeman at any of the railway stations or in the train,” said Chaitanya Shangude, 47, a bank employee who commutes from Navi Mumbai every day.
After the 7/11 train blasts, the railway authorities had said that security measures would be improved on a daily basis. But there seems to be little change.
Also, women commuters have been demanding that a railway protection force constable travel inside the ladies first-class compartment at night.
Railway authorities claim security measures have been intensified. “The compartments are overcrowded in the day and the policemen can’t get in. At night, the railway police makes sure there are policemen in the women’s compartments,” claimed SB Savarkar, additional commissioner of police, railway.
However, the recent spate of attacks, two in this week, has made many commuters jittery. A 25-year-old woman was molested between Nerul and Juinagar stations on Sunday. In the second incident, a girl was gang-raped outside Kalyan railway station on Tuesday.
“Since we know there will be no police, we have started travelling in groups. But we still feel insecure,” said a group of women who travel every day from Nalasopara to Churchgate.
However, Savarkar said they were not taking commuters’ safety, especially women’s, lightly. “But the shortage of manpower has been a perpetual problem. We are educating our men and the home guards to travel in the ladies compartment to ensure their safety,” he said, adding, “It is also important for women to be alert while travelling.”
According to Savarkar, the railway police or home guards man the ladies compartment. “The problem arises when the shift ends and the person next on duty doesn’t report to work,” he said.
Kul Bhushan, general manager of Central and Western Railways, said security at stations was their top priority.