To strengthen women commuters’ security, the Central Railway (CR) has initiated a new concept called ‘Smart Saheli’. The initiative involves the formation of 84 WhatsApp groups, which will include women railway police officers, commuters and members from non-government organisations to alert the officials in case of an emergency.
While 59 of these WhatsApp groups will cover 1,774 suburban railway services, 21 WhatsApp groups will be formed for important stations along the route like Thane, Mulund, Ghatkopar and Kurla. These stations will also have women railway protection force (RPF) staff round the clock. KK Ashraf, senior divisional security commissioner of the Mumbai division said, “Once a commuter posts a message in the group, railway officials will be alerted immediately. We expect the response in case of a mishap in around two minutes.”
Apart from this, the Mumbai division will also form four WhatsApp groups for ladies special trains. All of these special trains will also be escorted by three lady police officers, Ashraf said during a virtual press conference. Shalabh Goel, divisional railway manager, Mumbai division said, “Women safety is one of the most important issues for us and this initiative is a form of community policing to ensure commuters’ safety.”
CR caters to around 4.5 million passengers, of which around 30% or 13.5 lakh are women commuters. In 2018, Maharashtra recorded the most number of criminal offences on trains, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In November 2020, two women were assaulted and robbed in two separate instances, though railways are currently operating for a limited category of passengers. Meanwhile, CR also inaugurated a video surveillance system at 17 railway stations. The system will help in enhancing security within railway premises, which is a challenging job, a statement released by the CR said.