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On high alert

If you want to secure the country’s lifeline and contribute to its economy, become an RPF officer, advises Pranab Ghosh.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:32 IST
Pranab Ghosh

Dipti Chaudhary, 26, always wanted to serve the nation and being in an armed force was the best way to do so, she thought. But why did she choose the Railway Protection Force (RPF)? “My father is in the RPF. He is a sub-inspector,” says a visibly proud Chaudhary. “I was inspired by my father a lot.”

Chaudhary did her BA (honours) in economics from Daulat Ram College in 2005. She went on to do her MA in sociology, from Himachal Pradesh University in 2007, through correspondence. She then prepared for competitive examinations for a year and finally landed sub-inspector’s job in the RPF in 2009. Following the nine-month compulsory training at JR RPF Academy, Lucknow, and a couple of month’s practical training, she was inducted into the RPF in 2010.

Chaudhary is yet to complete a year in service but has already got a taste of it. She was part of the special team escorting the Commonwealth Games Express that plied between Delhi and Agra carrying foreign players, officials and dignitaries during the recently concluded games in Delhi. During the 15-day span, she woke up at 3am daily and reported to the Safdarjung Railway Station at 5am. Chaudhary had to supervise coach C-7 with three constables who were under her command. At 5am sharp, she took charge of the coach, and instructed her subordinates about the role they were required to play — to be in a state of high alert. The train with foreign nationals left at 8am every day for Agra and left Agra at 3pm on its return journey.

“One day on the way back, the train suddenly stopped near Mathura station without being signalled to stop,” she recalls. She, upon receiving a message via walkie-talkie, along with other members of the security team, immediately disembarked to keep vigil on the surrounding area of the coach. “Everyone was put on high alert. A feeling of patriotism gave us courage and strength,” she recounts. They were on high alert for 15 minutes before the train again chugged along on its course. Nothing untoward had happened but the lesson she learnt would motivate her to work more diligently and with more courage in the days ahead.

Indian Railways has more than 1,00,000 track kilometres, 4000 trains, 8000 locomotives, 8000-odd stations and more than 14 lakh employees catering to around

20 million passengers who travel across 28 states and two union territories of the country, everyday.
“In keeping with this magnitude, the security obligations are equally vast and challenging,” says AK Singh, inspector, RPF, crime investigation branch, headquarters, New Delhi. And RPF is part and parcel of this security obligation that ranges from protection of railway assets worth millions of rupees, vital installations and construction projects to commodities under transportation etc. “Security of railway passengers is an upcoming priority of the force,” says Singh.

What is unique about the RPF is that by virtue of its status it is an armed force of the Union, with work culture of a police organisation holding power of investigation and prosecution of offenders under Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act and the Railways Act, says Singh.

What has made the job of an RPF officer more challenging than ever before is the country’s changing security scenario. To combat terrorists, security men are being given special commando training, alongside “courses in bomb disposal, disaster management, fire control etc,” says Chaudhary. And training like this and the zeal to overcome all odds will inspire people like Singh and Chaudhary to join the RPF.

What's it about?
The present Railway Protection Force (RPF), a paramilitary force, was advanced by a Central act in 1957, further amended in 1985 and 2003. Now a 70,000-strong workforce, the RPF has evolved from the British era to its present status of the armed force of the Union

Clock Work
An officer’s day in the field:
8am: Attend briefing of duty
8.30am: Be part of review of preceding night’s events and their follow-ups with subordinate officer/staff. Check mail
10am: Attend trains; check whether train escorts are present
Noon: Monitor access control
1pm: Coordinate with GRP/civil police and other departments of railways. Update seniors on important issues
4pm: Participate in investigation
9pm: Duty hours are over but I stay on call

The Payoff
Entry level: On average Rs25,000 + perks; Middle level: Rs40,000 + perks; Senior level: Rs55,000 + perks

Skills
. Some prior knowledge of basic security arrangements
. Proper knowledge of English
. Some knowledge of weapons
. Be creative and progressive
. Awareness of physical fitness

How do i get there?
Indian Railways is the country’s single largest employer. Employees are classified as gazetted (Group A and B) and non-gazetted (Group C and D). The recruitment for Group A is carried out through the civil services exam held by the Union Public Service Commission. The RPF has its selection mechanism for sub-inspector’s and constable’s posts and convened by selection committees formed by the Railway Board. There are instances when good officers recruited as sub-inspectors rose to the rank of DIG. However, at present 50% of the posts in the rank of Assistant Commandant (Gr A) are filled up by promotion and remaining by direct recruitment. To become a sub-inspector in the RPF, you should be a graduate and meet physical standards set in this regard. Once qualified in the physical and written tests, a candidate goes through interview and medical examination before going for nine-month training. After the training, you are deployed in the field

Institutes & urls
To crack the written test, you may enrol with a coaching institute

Pros & Cons


.

It is a matter of pride to be a part of the Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest railway network


.

You get to know people from different cultures


.

Stability in the work


.

Limited power related to sections of IPC and CrPC thereby causing limitation of jurisdiction of work


.

Terrorists might attack a train. You are required to combat them and may even die


.

Limited pay as compared to the private sector

Fairly good promotional prospects

A senior officer talks about the opportunities and challenges

What is the scope of an RPF officer’s work? What are the various divisions in RPF and what are their responsibilities?
The RPF is entrusted with the job of providing security to railway property, and passengers. Railway property includes, apart from station buildings, trains and all industrial establishments (production units) under the railways. Apart from this, RPF officers have the opportunity to work on deputation in various organisations such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security), as vigilance officers in various public sector undertakings (PSUs) and in UN missions abroad.

Functionally, the RPF is divided into the executive branch and the prosecution branch. The executive branch is sub-divided into static, mobile, crime, special and stores wings. The static wing, consisting of RPF posts, is responsible for the security of railway property, passengers and crimes against it.

The mobile wing generally escorts passenger and goods trains and assists the static wing. The crime wing is a specialised squad for collection and collation of crime intelligence and it also enquires into difficult cases. They are assisted by the dogs’ squad. The special wing collects intelligence affecting the security and functioning of the railways. The stores wing caters to the requirement of the force for uniform, accoutrements, arms, ammunition, equipment and other store items. Apart from this, there are 10 training institutions to cater to the needs of the force personnel.

Are there adequate numbers of good RPF officers in the country?
Yes, I think there are adequate numbers of good RPF officers as they enter the force following a tough competitive exam/selection. Moreover, the recruitment process is fairly regular.

Where would an RPF officer be required to work?
While in service, they have the opportunity to work in various police set-ups, PSUs, in Indian missions abroad and also in the UN as police advisors. After retirement, officers or those who may have taken premature retirement have found work with the various security agencies and even in the private sector.

What are the challenges before RPF officers? What is the future of RPF as a career choice among young men and women?
Due to the fast-changing security scenario in the country, an RPF officer has to be familiar with the use of technology for security, develop his sources of intelligence, and work in close coordination with the other security agencies. Indian Railways, spread across the length and breadth of the country, provides an opportunity as well as a challenge to RPF personnel to work in Jammu & Kashmir, the northeast and even in the deep south.

RPF, I think, offers a satisfying career to young men as it offers reasonable promotional prospects and the opportunity to see the country while performing one’s duty. Each station or a compartment is like a mini-India, where people from different states can be found and have to be looked after. It widens your horizons.

How has the role of an RPF officer changed from the point of view of the safety measures that railways take to avert subversive acts? Are the RPF officers given any special training towards this?
In recent times, there has been a shift in focus from protecting railway property to the security of the system itself. The railways have identified about 120 vulnerable stations throughout the country where the scheme of integrated security system is being implemented. RPF officers are being sent in large numbers for commando and other specialised training at institutes of other police organisations in the country and abroad.

C S Ray, inspector general, Railway Protection Force, Northern Railway, Delhi interviewed by Pranab Ghosh