The security on Mumbai’s locals will continue to be a huge concern in the new year. There is a shortfall of 3,950 personnel across Central and Western railways, with a recent survey carried out by the Government Railway Police (GRP) revealing it alone need 3000 more men and women to effectively police Mumbai suburban railway’s sprawl. The Railway Police Force’s (RPF) Western Railway unit is 450 short of its required strength and its counterpart in Central Railway needs 500 more personnel.
Central Railway’s suburban network covers 121 km track length between CST and Kasara, 114 km between CST and Khapoli and 49 km between CST and Panvel. There are 77 stations operational on Central Railway’s suburban network. Western Railway’s suburban network covers a track length of 123 km and 37 stations. Over 3500 cases — including mobile thefts, chain snatching, and molestation — were recorded across the two lines this year. It’s a sharp spike from 2013, when the figure stood at 2676, and from 2014, when it was 3118. Government Railway Police Commissioner Niket Kaushik said all aspects of security get impacted by the shortfall in manpower. “Apart from day-to-day policing, crime detection too suffers because we are unable to spare enough people to pursue cases,” he said.
Sachin Bhalode, senior divisional security commissioner, for Central Railway’s Mumbai division, said while metal detectors, bag scanners, and CCTVs have been provided to the security forces, there aren’t enough people to man them. “With the current strength, the RPF is not able to cover all 1660 trains that run every day, nor are we able to scan every bag. We also do not have enough people to monitor CCTV feed, which kind of defeats the purpose,” he said.
A senior Western Railway officer, who did not wish to be identified, said that while the infrastructure is in place, lack of manpower cripples every security operation. Nearly 35 lakh passengers ride Western Railway’s 1323 services every day. Central Railway carries 42 lakh commuters daily. Divisional Railway Manager Mukul Jain acknowledged that security on trains and stations is compromised by lack of adequate manpower. A source said the any increase in Government Railway Police strength is tricky because the concerned state government and the Railway Board equally share the expenditure. “It’s difficult to bring the state government and the Railway Board on the same page,” he said.