By Rohit Alok
Conceptualised after the 2006 serial bomb blasts in the city as a complete security scheme for Mumbai’s suburban railway system, the Integrated Security System (ISS) remains only partially complete even six years after 26/11, when the maximum number of casualties were witnessed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
The plan was first proposed two months before 26/11, on September 24, 2008, to be precise. Six years on, however, its implementation remains patchy.
On the Central Railway, the ISS now comprises a dog squad, under vehicle search system (UVSS), closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs), door metal frame detectors (DFMDs) and hand-held metal detectors. Though CCTVs and DFMDs have been procured and installed by the WR as well, the ISS, as a complete security programme, is yet to be implemented by it.
The vulnerability of the suburban local trains and stations as terror targets is an open secret. And in the absence of a holistic security programme, the new technology is not an asset, say policemen who are still relying on time-tested techniques to stay vigilant.
“We have technology but cannot depend on it,” said R K Singh, a Railway Police Force officer at CST. Behind him is a latest model of metal detector and door frame metal detector, installed nearly two months ago.
Of the six such machines on the Azad Maidan side of the station, only one is functional. The difference between the old machines and the new ones are that the six lights on the scanner would light up on machines when these detects metal and a siren starts blaring.
According to railway officials, Rs 19 crore has been spent on the installation of ISS. Tata’s Nelco has been entrusted with the work of implementing the first phase of ISS, which includes six major railway stations of CST, Dadar, LTT, Kurla, Thane and Kalyan in the Mumbai suburban line.
Eleven hi-tech luggage scanners have been installed at these six stations. “The luggage scanners are to act as a deterrent. Railways stations are not airports and so not every piece of luggage could be scanned. We prioritize based on our instincts,” says a senior railway police officer.
Police say they are heavily dependent on their instincts and on the sniffer dogs from bomb detection and disposal squad (BDDS) to spot any suspicious movement. The railways police has 40 sniffer dogs, while the Government Railway Police has six.
Post-26/11, police’s arsenal has also been upgraded. They now carry AK-47s, single-loaded rifles, carbines, pistols and revolvers.
The most visible change at railway stations post-26/11 are the four-feet-high semi-circular fortifications made of bags of sand, which are called morchas. GRP and RPF personnel can often be seen nestled behind these bags with their SLR guns trained.
“Its very strenuous to the eyes. I have to focus on a stationary object to reset my vision,” says Suresh Ugale, a railway officer behind a morcha with his SLR.
A six-feet-high boundary wall with barbed fencing on top was also proposed in the ISS, but was scrapped by Railways for to lack of funds.