“It’s our problem and we need to fix it”. This simple truth has been the motivating factor for Dipesh Tank who started an initiative, now popularly known as “War Against Railway Rowdies”, to help ensure safety of women traveling in local trains. For Tank, the trigger to do something like this was an incident which he was witness to at Malad station .
“A group of boys were hanging out of the train, and trying to touch the women standing on the platform or in other trains which were slowing down next to theirs. They were also whistling and passing comments. At that moment, I realised something was needed to be done,” said Tank.
“I narrated the incident to a friend who helped me get in touch with a retired police personnel. I was finally put in touch with the Government Railway Police (GRP)who sent me to the Railway Protection Force (RPF),” he added. But the rigour of getting a crime noticed convinced him the need for a better approach.
Tank began with a survey at Malad station itself, asking women how safe they felt traveling on local trains. “The survey took place over four days with the help of some friends,’’ said Tank.
Three women and two men, all friends, helped him carry out this survey. The survey was carried out in August 2013.
“The results were shocking. About 70 to 80 per cent answered in affirmative to questions relating to facing sexual harassment/eve teasing in local trains and aware of groups responsible for such activities,’’ he added.
This survey was then forwarded to the GRP, RPF, Prime Minister’s office, National Commission of Women. “This resulted in a drive being carried out by the GRP. This drive which was conducted on December 2013, instilled fear in such anti-social elements,” said Tank. But this has been the last drive. Now the group works on their own and relies on their own resources.
“We mostly work alone now. I use a digital camera and shoot what is happening in the station. Sometimes it gets tough nabbing the accused if they are of a heavy built,’’ he said. The group has at least one complaint redressed along with the railway police every week, with at least 25 criminal proceedings initiated against erring commuters at their behest, claims Tank.
Working with an advertisement firm, he admits that “doing a good deed can be tiring sometimes”. Four others have joined him. He also feels that more assistance is required from the government .
“People upload videos, or leave messages for us, informing us about such incidents. A few days back, a compliant was made by a passenger traveling on the harbour line but we couldn’t catch anyone,” he said. Tank wants to buy cameras which can be installed in a cap so he can make recordings of such incidents as it becomes hard to record such incidents in a moving train using the mobile camera.
Explaining what keeps him motivated till date, he said, “After the Nirbhaya case in Delhi, (where a 23-year-old woman was gangraped in a moving bus) I promised myself that I would try my best to prevent such incidents from happening,” Tank said.
The GRP meanwhile, said that it was making sustained efforts to ensure women’s safety. “There is women squad who keep vigil in stations. Earlier, the squad was available along the western line only. 17 committees have been established which includes young women passengers and journalists to look into such complaints,” said Ravinder Kumar Singhal, commissioner of Railway Police.