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Kanpur train tragedy: Overburdened Railway Police Force, mismanagement affect security

On 1 January, the patrolling staff found fish plates missing from the rail tracks between Kalyanpur and Mandhana stations of Farrukhabad-Kanpur Anwarganj section, the tracks were also damaged by a hackshaw. While 14 coaches of Indore-Patna Express were derailed claiming 150 lives on 20 November, 15 coaches of the Sealdah-Ajmer Express got derailed on 28 December injuring 50 passengers near Kanpur. The reverse chronology of these incidents is both intriguing and distressing.

On  Tuesday, reports emerged that Pakistan's ISI may be behind the derailment of the Indore-Patna Express train. If the sabotage and terror link (ISI) is established in Samastipur, Bihar, then who is to be held accountable? “Our agencies and security forces are not aware of the supposed terror link that is being talked about in the media,” says the PRO of Northern Central Railway.

Meanwhile, the Additional DG, Public Relations, tells Firstpost, “It is too early to comment on the situation. The interrogation of the suspects is underway and our security forces are in constant touch with the law and order department in the district.”

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In 2015, there were 10 recorded attacks on trains by Maoists and militants in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir. Who is responsible for averting a possible terror threat on a network that spans 108,706 kilometres and is home to 22 million every day? The Ministry of Railways sought an amendment in the Railway Police Force Act, 1957, to empower the RPF to investigate cases independently. It was proposed that since law and order is a state subject, there are often objections from the police department of the state governments. As far as the Railway Police Force (RPF) is concerned, the problem isn’t lack of power, but abundance of responsibilities.

Last year, the Ministry of Railways constituted a four-member committee to examine the yardsticks for the creation of new posts in the RPF. The report suggested that at present, there are no fixed yardsticks for creation of posts in the RPF. In the past, different parameters have been adopted by zonal railways for creation of posts. In the absence of uniformity and approved yardsticks, zonal railways are facing problems in creating posts in the RPF for newly created assets viz. railway lines, workshops, PUs etc. As a result, proposal for creation of posts are getting delayed and that is having an adverse impact on security in the newly created assets of the Indian Railways.

The committee’s report stated that the RPF’s primary field unit is the Post, which is maintained, supervised and run by the enrolled members of the force of all ranks. Their administrative functions include supervision, which involves replying to all communication/petition addressed to post commander; maintaining and preparing crime registers; devising and implementing crime control strategies; maintaining a daily diary wherein they convert complaints into writing; maintaining records of crime, arms and ammunition, summon warrants; manning of baggage scanners, escorting of trains, loading and unloading rakes, handling parcels among other things.

Depending on the station, approximately 10 to 15 percent of the time, the manpower engaged in RPF Post, is spent on other duties and as expected, this takes a heavy toll on the manpower resources.

The RPF posts like Jaipur, Kota, Tirupati, Tata, Hubli and Secunderabad are classified as average loaded posts, Bangalore City, Kanpur, Dhanbad, Bhopal, JAT, Itarasi, Vadodara, and Trivandrum are classified as heavy loaded posts and New Delhi, CST (M), Howrah, Sealdah and Chennai are classified as very heavy loaded posts. These posts, the report highlighted, are heavily loaded because the per day passenger footfall at the stations under these posts is 80,000 or more. Some of the stations touch a figure of 5 to 10 lakhs passenger per day. Because of heavy footfall, these stations show a large number of railway act cases. Therefore, they need to use manpower for not only providing smooth movement of passengers but to curb crime as well as to process the mandatory legal provisions and proceedings.

Another crucial observation made by the committee’s report is that it is the RPF and not the GRP that maintains, monitors and keeps logs of the electronic footage. As the size of the stations are huge and the footfall is quite high, electronic gadgets including CCTV cameras, baggage scanner machines installed are much more than other stations. Huge number of these electronic monitoring devices also need a large manpower. Since trains originating from these stations are large in number, the trains escorted by RPF are also many.

National security is not being compromised by an isolated act of terror but by institutional mismanagement.


Updated Date: Jan 18, 2017 11:47 AM

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