In the last five years, as the railways struggled to tide over a funds crunch and political turmoil saw six successive ministers, security for the travelling public kept getting worse. Crime in railways has now touched a new high across India.
The number of thefts and robberies of passengers’ belongings has reached 19,000 in a year, an increase over 50 per cent in a five-year-period ending 2013. Crimes against women other than rape has seen a 305 per cent increase since 2004, and nearly 180 per cent in the last five years.
Around 60 per cent of the total 26,000 cognisable crimes in railways in the last one year occurred inside trains while the rest took place on its premises, data show. On average, it means over 1,000 crimes per passenger train per year.
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The new dispensation in railways led by minister Sadananda Gowda has taken cognisance of this among the many legacies of the previous regime, the financial crisis being another of them. Gowda mentioned security for passengers as one of the major concerns in his speech to senior railway managers earlier this week.
“Are our trains safe for women and elderly passengers? How can we make our railways safe for women? Why are we not as efficient as the best in the world? Don’t our employees work? What are the problems? Is funding the only problem?, Gowda told senior railway managers on Thursday.
Sources said the rail budget in July will spell out new measures aimed at enhancing passenger security, especially in running trains.
After lying low for a few years, “drugging gangs” are now active again across trains, while armed robbers as well as thieves have frequently sneaked into compartments of moving trains. The only category of crime on the decline is dacoity, from 70 in 2009 to 48 in 2013. The “phasing out” of known dacoit gangs is seen as the reason.
According to data accessed by the The Indian Express, incidents of murder went up to 270 by end of 2013, from 245 in 2009, while the number of rapes doubled to 54 during that period. From just 209 in 2005, the total “crimes against women other than rape”, too, jumped to 639 during the last one year and most of them happened inside trains.
While law and order is a state subject, the protection of passengers, especially in moving trains, is the responsibility of the railways. The Railway Protection Force’s new director-general, Krishna Chowdhary, who took over in March this year, has been talking about installing closed-circuit cameras in some trains.
Passengers have brought their concerns to the notice of railways in various zones. “It is quite alarming.
We will present the concerns of the travelling public to the minister as well as the zonal railway concerned,” said Raghunandan Tyagi, a veteran member of the Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee. “There have been protests by passengers whenever there has been a crime inside a train or at a station.”