Around 9.30 PM, the peak hours over, the crowd at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) thins, the buzz starts fading. It’s been 10 years since this routine was disrupted on November 26, 2008, when the Central Railway headquarters building was filled with screams, cries for help and gunshots as a group of terrorists sprayed bullets at the crowd, taking 52 lives.
Today, the iconic railway station, one of the busiest in the world, has made several additions to its structure, even to its name – ‘Maharaj’. At the same time, it’s also got key security upgrades: from a full-fledged Integrated Security System (ISS) to a dedicated dog squad.
“302 CCTV cameras, three under-vehicle scanners, three X-ray baggage inspection systems, 32 door frame metal detectors and 76 hand-held metal detection machines… all these are in place now only at the CSMT. Most of the technical equipment under the ISS are available. In terms of security standards, we are much better off now,” said Sachin Bhalode, Sr Divisional Security Commissioner (DSC), Railway Protection Force (RPF).
According to officials, as many as 250 RPF personnel guard the CSMT daily, with frequent safety drills conducted inside trains and at different parts of the station, and a CCTV control room on the first floor to monitor passenger movement. Besides, they say, boundary walls have come up at the station and access is controlled.
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“In 2012, we got our own dog squad at the station. A team of eight dogs — seven Labradors and a Doberman — regularly checks long-distance trains before boarding. The squad works in three shifts,” a senior RPF official said.
What has also changed, officials say, is their response to complaints of any “threat”, even the most far-fetched. “Once, a passenger called our helpline number and claimed there was a bomb in the Pushpak (Express), which our team heard as ‘parcel’. We checked the entire parcel office, but nothing was found. We later traced the caller who confessed he made the hoax call because he was getting late for the Pushpak Express,” an RPF official said.
According to Niket Kaushik, Commissioner, Government Railway Police (GRP), the station is now getting ready for ISS Phase 2. “The phase II is being worked out by the Railway Ministry. which will further strengthen security at CSMT. We have a special task force of six to eight people who are trained in anti-sabotage checks. A special Quick Reaction Team is also in place,” Kaushik said.