*Year 1984. Month April. Niranjan Kumar Verma, then in his early 20s was travelling by train to Chapra to appear in an examination conducted by Bihar Public Service Commission. Before he could reach Chapra, some locals befriended him and offered him a biscuit. He fell unconscious. The Government Rail Police (GRP) later picked a senseless Verma and took him to their office. “The only thing I remember was that they made me take bath twice. Then I was transported to a government hospital where I was kept for a few hours. The police got me a ticket for my return journey to Samastipur. I could not appear in the exams, came back home and felt dizziness for two more days,” recalls Verma, now an officer with State bank of India at Godda in Jharkhand.
*Year 2008, Month October, Md Rizwan of Siwan (name changed) had returned to his home state after two years from a Gulf country to be with his family during Eid. A small time worker in Gulf, Rizwan was carrying a hefty sum in cash and some gold ornaments. As he could not get a reserved ticket, he boarded the Jansadharan Express and fell prey to a gang in the same fashion. “He found himself penniless when he regained consciousness,” recalled GRP Inspector Alok Kumar Singh.
These are just two examples out of hundreds played out each month on trains in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The gangs indulging in drugging passengers have taken a menacing form and operate throughout the country. However, the problem is more profound in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and on Delhi routes. Between 1984 and 2009 thousands have been looted. The problem still remains to be tackled.
This year, figures released up to October suggested that 500 cases of drugging of passengers have been reported in Bihar – 400 of these cases had been lodged at different stations between Mughalsarai and Jhajha and remaining 100 in Barauni and Muzaffarpur sections. Six of the victims have died in the course of treatment. According to railway ministry sources, 725 cases of drugging were reported in 2007 as against 714 in 2006.
Though the incidents of drugging take place at regular intervals, the Railways still do not have any contingency plan to check the recurrence of such incidents. A plan to set-up anti-drug cell at each zonal headquarters has not materialised till date.
“We are trying to educate passengers about the dos and don’ts while travelling,” said Divisional Rail Manager (DRM), Danapur, Gyan Prakash Srivastava. “The GRP and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) are carrying out joint patrolling in trains,” said Superintendent of Rail Police (Patna), Upendra Kumar Sinha.
Alarmed over the spurt in cases of drugging of rail passengers, the Railways Ministry has prepared a short film to be shown at different cantonments and Army camps as there have been several instances of Army and para-military personnel, particularly travelling in east-bound trains, falling victims to such gangs.
Railway Ministry sources said that some of the vulnerable stations and trains have been identified and more attention is being paid on them to avert occurrence of such cases.
In the ECR, the most drugging-prone zone of the country, regular coordination meetings are being conducted between RPF and GRP for better exchange of intelligence regarding gangs indulging in such activities and a joint strategy is being formulated to effectively contain the crime.