On May 13, 25-year-old Daksha Shah, who works in a marketing agency at Santacruz, was standing on the footboard of a packed Borivli local.
As the train slowed down between Mahim and Bandra stations for a signal, a teenage boy — positioned on a signal pole — hit her hand with a stick, and dislodged the cellphone she was speaking on. Before she knew it, he was gone, and so was her phone.
The GRP have failed to control a rash of crimes such as this, committed along the 3.5-km stretch between Khar and Mahim stations.
Women commuters are the prime targets. After repeated requests, Western Railways (WR) have decided to put up fencing along the troubled section of track.
Thieves in the area target women travelling on footboards and snatch cellphones and purses. “On an average, we get 20 such calls from women commuters per month, of which 12-13 are for incidents on this stretch,” said Inspector Rajendra Nikam, in charge of the GRP helpline.
“We’ve formed a nine-member squad (an officer, two head constables and four constables) to patrol the stretch 24 hours,” said Senior Inspector Ashok Survegandh of the Bandra GRP, adding that they’ve also been distributing handbills to women
commuters to create awareness.
“We’ve requested women not to stand on footboards in general, and especially not while speaking on cellphones. The miscreants climb electric poles and wait for a train to pass. When it slows down, they hit women standing on the footboard, sometimes with a stick, and dislodge their cellphone or bag.”
The GRP has claimed topography is also a major challenge. “The area is surrounded on both sides by a number of slums — Behrampada, Garib Nagar, Naya Nagar, Dharavi — and these offenders are slumdwellers, who commit the theft, then vanish into the hutments,” said a senior officer.
There are creeks and marshy land on either end, and six tracks on which a local train passes every three minutes —making it easy hunting grounds for thieves.
“We’ve written more than 12 letters to WR asking for halogen lights and fencing but nothing has been done so far,” he explained.
SS Gupta, chief PRO, WR, said: “After a joint survey with the GRP on that stretch, we’ve decided to put up nine-foot high fencing on either side of the tracks. The work will be completed in three months.”