A 50-year-old man recoils as Gills comes sniffing into the compartment, an RPF constable at his tail. After a few seconds, Gills, uninterested, leads the constable out of the compartment and the man finally catches his breath. Gills is off to the second compartment of the Kalyan local on platform no 4 of CST. Gills, a Labrador, is one of the 36 sniffer dogs that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) uses to monitor the Central Railways. Primarily tasked with the security of CST, these dogs take train rides once in a while to check for explosives, and lately, narcotics.
On most occasions, people, like the one in the CST train, are scared whenever we take the sniffer dogs along, says RPF Assistant Sub Inspector Ravinder Singh. “There are several occasions when people have asked us to take the dog away from their luggage. They normally say that they are carrying food items which would be spoilt as the canine inspects the bag with his nose. We then either convince them or check their baggage ourselves,” says Singh.
As Gills walks on the platform with Singh, he invites curious glances from commuters. As he is directed towards a coach, a couple of commuters walking by the adjacent platform stop to peer inside. An RPF constable asks them to leave. “Kuch mila hai kya yahan par,” asks a commuter. Gills is unperturbed. As the train chugs out, he walks across the compartment, leading Singh, who is holding the leash. The two-and-a-half year old commands the attention of the 10 people seated in the coach.
At Masjid Bunder, the coach is changed to the luggage compartment, where a similar exercise follows – scared commuters and a busy Gills leading Singh along. At Sandhurst Road station they head back.
“Our main job is to ensure that all trains — local and long distance — coming to CST are searched. Hence, the dogs are primarily stationed at CST. Once in a while, we take the train ride if we hear something suspicious,” an RPF official explains.
Of the 36 sniffer dogs, while most specialise in explosives, there are a couple of trackers who work at crime scenes and recently-trained six canines who can sniff out narcotics. There are four kennels where the dogs are stationed – CST, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Matunga and Kalyan. “They work in there eight-hour shifts as we have to ensure that there is round-the-clock security,” says Singh.
Asked if they have been able to detect anything recently, Singh says that while no explosives have been found, the ‘trackers’ who are taken to whiff crime scenes managed to track down six batteries that had been stolen from a railway office in Vasai.
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