For nearly three years, he had been devoting an hour every day, taking on men harassing women on local trains. Almost a year ago, Dipesh Tank procured sunglasses with an in-built, hidden HD camera to capture hooligans and molesters in action at railway stations and on trains. He has now stopped his daily vigil. “Now, if I am travelling and see some eve-teasers, I do inform the cops. However, I do not go out of my way,” says the 33-year-old Malad resident. What made him discontinue his watch? He says it was the realisation that his efforts were not effective in the long run, given the alleged lack of enthusiasm on the part of the authorities to tackle sexual harassment on local trains in a systematic manner.
Tank, who works for a non-profit organisation, had started the initiative, ‘War Against Railway Rowdies’ (WARR) in 2013 after he saw the menace unleashed by several youngsters on the local train while travelling for work from Malad to Govandi. Tank says when a train was leaving the station, youngsters would hit on the heads of people on the platforms, hoot at girls, lunge at them and call names. “These youngsters were under the impression that once a train leaves a railway station they are safe and can do anything. This mindset had to be changed,” Tank said.
Earlier, he would call up the railway police control room and report these instances. He later realised he needs to come up with a strategy. Nearly a year back, Tank researched on cameras online and found an interesting gadget: sunglasses with an in-built HD camera. The device was not available in India and he had one of his friends get it for him from the US. Armed with the device, Tank started a drive that would see him wait at stations for an hour every day before and after work.
Tank said whenever he saw eve-teasers, he would look in their direction and start recording them on his sunglasses. He would then call up the railway police. If someone hit a commuter on the Mahim railway station on a down local, he would record it and call up the Government Railway Police (GRP) and ask them to come at Bandra railway station. “There the person would be pulled down by the police and I would get off too. If the person denied the wrongdoing, we would confront him with the footage,” he said. He claims he has helped nab around 140 miscreants.
Over a period of time, he realised there was a need for a well-planned long-term solution. “I realised that while the police responded whenever I called up the control room in individual cases, there did not seem to be an interest in long-term solutions,” Tank said. “I gave the police a list of guidelines to help us track down offenders. The guidelines included naming coaches with numbers and the doors with alphabets so that one could easily report if a person in a particular coach was harassing people. However, they were not interested,” he said.
“I then realised that tracking down individual cases and recording it was not the solution. Also, my work timings were hectic. Eventually, I stopped waiting back after work. Even now I do track offenders while I am travelling to work. However, I have stopped going out of my way to track these people,” says Tank, who works with a non-profit organisation largely from home now.
Tank is willing to start tracking offenders again if the GRP shows more interest in his work. “I wish the administration understood the magnitude of the problem. I have shot some terrible footage, people hitting CCTV cameras, smoking, standing on windows of women’s compartments and in one case a man urinating from the train. Sexual harassment is rampant on trains at night. If anyone can show me ten trains in which such things don’t happen, I will shave my head.” GRP Commissioner Niket Kaushik said he did not know about Tank’s efforts and was open to meeting with Tank and discussing his initiative.