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Wanted: State-of-the-art security

Ten minutes. That’s the railways’ promised response time if a citizen calls in to report a suspicious object on a train. However, as correspondent Sayli Udas Mankikar found out, a real-life situation doesn’t go according to script.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2009 00:44 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar
Sayli Udas Mankikar
Hindustan Times

I boarded the 7.56 pm Bandra local from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station on the Harbour line on Wednesday. I climbed onto the ladies’ first class compartment at the Bandra end of the train. The train took off in seconds, as usual.

When I sat on the seat in the nearly empty compartment, I noticed a white plastic bag placed on the other end of the opposite berth. When another commuter walked in, I asked her if the bag belonged to her just to make sure, to which she replied in the negative.

I immediately dialled 100, the police control room, and told them about the abandoned bag. They gave me the Government Railway Police (GRP) helpline number, 9833331111, which I dialled instantly and told them of the bag as the train approached Masjid station. I was told that somebody would arrive at the next station to check the bag.

However, even after 15 minutes, there was no response from railway authorities.

Having crossed Cotton Green station, I made another call to the same number, asking them why there was no help.

From what I gathered, the person at the other end did not seem to know that an earlier call had been made.

Finally, at Wadala station, four stations from the first call, O.P. Pandey, a GRP constable walked in with a stick and opened the packet, treating the whole thing like a joke.

“It’s just sambhar and chutney someone has left behind,” he said, laughing. I asked him what if it the packet had contained something dangerous instead. To which he quipped:

“Bombs are not kept on the seats but below them,” and chucked the packet out of the train door (incidentally, isn’t there a littering law against that?).

He laughed, saying people panic unnecessarily, and got down at the next station.

His behaviour and the railways’ lack of urgency certainly didn’t help my confidence and sense of safety.