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‘Evacuating migrants, crowd control, infection among staff major challenge amid pandemic’

From the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic to accidental deaths, and women’s safety to upgrading the security on railway platforms, Mumbai Railway Police Commissioner Quaiser Khalid, a 1997-batch IPS officer, speaks with The Indian Express on a range of issues.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
July 26, 2021 1:01:58 am
Mumbai Railway Police Commissioner Quaiser Khalid

From the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic to accidental deaths, and women’s safety to upgrading the security on railway platforms, Mumbai Railway Police Commissioner Quaiser Khalid, a 1997-batch IPS officer, speaks with The Indian Express on a range of issues.

What are the major challenges you and your personnel faced during the pandemic?

The biggest challenge was the evacuation of migrant workers, desperate to go back home. The arrangement of bogies, coordination with different government departments, controlling crowds while dealing with the increasing number of infected policemen was an uphill task.

We sent over 15 lakh people home through Shramik trains within a short span of time. We also arranged for their food and water as food stalls on railway premises were shut.

Over 600 GRP officials got infected and six died due to Covid-19. (But) we learned from our experience, which further helped us minimise infections (to less than 200 personnel) and casualties (just one) during the second wave.

There is a proposal that those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel on suburban trains. If this happens, how do you plan to tackle the crowding and the absence of social distancing in the trains?

Currently, around 30-35 lakh people are traveling by local trains daily. If this proposal is accepted, the number will shoot up.

So far, our focus has been to ensure Covid-appropriate behavior is followed. We created awareness by making announcements and taking action against violators. Till now, 27,808 commuters have been booked for not following Covid-appropriate behaviour and Rs 58.74 lakh in fines collected from them.

Accidental deaths, especially on tracks, have always been a major issue. How are you tackling it?

To fix up the exact reason and location of track deaths, we are now using software-based data collection and analysis systems for the last two months. In a few months, we will be in a position to identify the reasons and come up with appropriate solutions for railways, like the construction of a bridge or underpass, boundary walls, improvement of visibility, etc.

For genuine commuters, we have submitted a proposal with the railway administration to introduce insurance policies that come with a small premium, starting from the first-class passengers. We have also proposed insurance for mobile phones and laptops of commuters as these items are mostly stolen.

Recently, a woman died after a criminal tried to rob her at Kalwa station. What steps are being taken amid Covid to prevent such incidents? Also, instances of molestation and harassment keep happening. In general, what steps are being taken to ensure women’s safety on local trains?

Women’s safety is our prime focus. We have reviewed the pattern of police deployment with reference to the commuter numbers in bogies and the destination. We are suitably revising their deployment and will be shifting the base to Borivali, Thane, Vashi, and Vasai Road until Panvel. We will also be advancing the timing of deployment to between 6 pm and 7 pm so that we are able to provide better security to far-flung destinations and cover more services than the present arrangement.

In addition, we are introducing emergency buttons in select ladies’ compartments where any victim can directly talk to the railway official present on the train. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are also being installed in selected ladies’ compartments. Under a modernization scheme for the CCTVs already installed at various stations, selected access points will have artificial intelligence-enabled devices which will generate alerts for suspicious behaviors.

During the lockdown, we noticed that due to fewer passengers in the ladies compartments some crimes have taken place, including the one near Kalwa railway station. We are now surveying access control measures at certain stations where anti-social elements have been found to have easy access to railway platforms.

There are several cases of stolen mobile phones being reported daily. Any specific steps to tackle this crime?

We are coordinating with the mobile phone selling shops to maintain a database of people selling second-hand phones. There is a proposal for insurance of phones to prevent people from jumping from running trains to chase thieves.

How do you plan to enhance the security on the railway premises with limited manpower?

We have proposed to create a number of new police stations to cover the railway premises in a better way. The extensive CCTV camera coverage for important stations is now being extended to almost all stations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The command-and-control setup and the communication network is also being improved.

Do you think that the railway police crime data maintenance system fulfils the needs of policing in the present times?

The data in our unit is being digitized and we have introduced artificial intelligence-based analysis tools to sift through the large database and generate leads. The data of neighbouring units are also being incorporated for better assessment. We are creating a database for missing children as well to ensure they can be quickly and easily handed over to their families.

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