Safe commute is a long distance away in Mumbai
There have been attacks on women travelling in trains earlier too, which prompted authorities to lay down various measures to improve security, but though many promises have been made, few have been fulfilled and women continue to be vulnerable, as the Saturday’s attack on a 23-year-old nurse has proved.
Taking cognisance of a HT report on the molestation of a 25-year-old Nerul resident in a Vashi train, in June 2011, Bombay high court asked the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) to chalk out plans to ensure safe commute for women.
The RPF obtained sanction to engage 300 home guards to patrol stations, 10% of whom would be women. The plan should have been executed by January 2012, but to date it has not been executed in its entirety, admit officials.
“Of the 300 home guards sanctioned, we have engaged 150 to 200 home guards. Of these, around 50 are women,” said Mahim Swamy, inspector general, Railway Protection Force, Western Railway.
Why are they still short of 100 home guards? “Though the railways sanctioned 300 home guards to us, the home guard office is unable to meet the number owing to staff crunch,” Swamy said.
Similarly, after the 2011 incident, the GRP decided to deploy constables at all hours in women’s compartments, but sources said the plan has been stalled because of staff crunch.
“We requested for 100 personnel two years ago, but railway authorities are yet to sanction them, despite facing flak from Bombay high court,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
“The staff strength has not been increased in recent years,” he added.
After being rapped by court for inefficient security measures in 2011, the railway police formed two task forces to prevent crimes against women.
These task forces, Swamy said, has women constables patrolling and conducting random checks.
“We have helplines to cater to women’s grievances. There is a woman constable working round the clock to address these issues and as soon as a woman reports a grievance, the task forces provide assistance,” Swamy said.
Women, however, continue to feel threatened.
Aaishwari Chouhan, 24, a law student, said she feels vulnerable at night as men barge into women’s compartments.
“It is a routine affair. I have been travelling on the western line for more than seven years and on very few occasions have I seen policemen keep these men at bay,” said Chouhan, a Borivli resident.
Swamy , however, said that the police has launched a drive this year and are penalising these offenders.
“We have fined 4,601 men Rs500 each between January and June this year,” he said.