Train commute is getting more and more dangerous for women in Mumbai. Statistics from the Government Railway Police (GRP) reveal that on an average 24 women were attacked every month this year in local trains and across the 92 railway stations on the central and western lines.
In 2009, the monthly average was 15, in 2010 it rose to 17, while in 2011, it was around 16.
Between January and May, a total of 119 complaints were registered with the railway police pertaining to crimes against women, which include molestations, eve-teasing and chain snatchings. The number of molestation cases registered is three times higher than last year - from January to May this year, the GRP registered 12 cases of molestation as against eight cases in all of 2011.
Women commuters face many problems while travelling by local trains as well as within the railway premises, on crowded platforms and foot-over-bridges.
Pragya Priyadarshini, 21, a media professional who lives in Navi Mumbai, said: "Boys stand at compartment doors and try to touch women standing on the platform by extending their hand out, so we have to remember to step back as the train pulls in," she said.
"A group of teenagers, usually drunk or doped, are a big nuisance for women in the Kurla-Mankhrud stretch, especially at Govandi and Mankhurd stations," said Ashwini Palav, 27, banker and Chembur resident.
"A month ago, I was waiting for a train when they made lewd comments. Commuters at the station thrashed them. Finally, policemen took them away."
Women commuters who travel by the first class are often the most vulnerable, especially during non-peak hours when they have to deal with drunkards, drug addicts and rag pickers who enter this relatively-uncrowded compartment.
"It has become routine for drug addicts to board the first class during non-peak hours and it convenient for them to do drugs. It makes me feel very insecure," said Archana Purohit, 27, and IT professional and Kalyan resident.
The second-class compartments have other issues.
"At Chinchpokli or Currey Road, a handicapped beggar boards the train during peak hours and under the pretext of begging, he intentionally brushes against women. Once he was beaten up and thrown out, but he is back," said Supriya Padve, 32, accounts assistant and Thane resident.
"I'd like to complain, but I don't know whom to complain to."
When HT took photos of ladies' compartments on Saturday night - after 8pm the compartments are supposed to be manned by security personnel - several trains had no personnel.
Officials claim they are doing their best.
"The crime rate has risen, but there is a substantial hike in detection rate as well," said inspector Pradeep Padvi of Mumbai GRP.
"Of the 12 molestation cases registered this year, 11 have been detected and the miscreants punished."