Who’s to watch the watchdogs in trains?
The molestation of a 23-year-old nurse on a Borivli bound local on Saturday has proved two things – first, that despite all assurances, there’s no guarantee that there will be police personnel manning the women’s compartment at odd hours; second, that there is no mechanism in place to keep a check on the police personnel who have actually been appointed to do the job.
If Government Railway Police (GRP) constable Devendra Shinde had done his job and been present in the women’s compartment that early Saturday morning, the nurse would have been spared the ordeal.
Since then, Shinde has been suspended. While that may be suitable punishment, neither the state police, under which the GRP falls, nor the railways have put a system in place to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
“Apart from random checks at nodal railway stations, there is no mechanism to check that constables on escort duty are actually at work,” admitted a GRP official, on condition of anonymity.
“The GRP learnt that Shinde, who was supposed to guard the north-end women’s coach of the Borivli-bound train, was not in the local as he arrived one hour late at Borivli railway station to hand over his rifle.
When questioned, he said he had fallen asleep at Churchgate station and that the train had left without him,” the official said.
In this case, as it was the last train that Shinde was supposed to man after which he had to hand over the rifle, officials realised that something was amiss.
“Had the incident taken place in a train during the middle of his shift, the officials would not have even known that he failed to escort the train,” the official explained.
Rajendra Trivedi, senior inspector of Mumbai Central GRP, said that although there is no concrete mechanism to check whether the personnel assigned the duty are actually at work, there is checking at nodal stations where the GRP personnel on the platforms inspect if there are personnel in the compartments assigned to them.
“Had the train gone further to Dadar, Bandra, Andheri or Borivli, the personnel on platforms would have known that the constable is absent,” said Trivedi.
It is to be noted that although the train passed through Mumbai Central, a nodal station, but that no one noticed or reported the constable’s absence.
B Shirsat, deputy commissioner of police, GRP, Western Railway, said 312 GRP personnel have been fined Rs 500 in the past year for allegedly bunking work.