Encroachment in compartments reserved for women commuters persists on Mumbai locals with the number of cases of unauthorized traveling spiralling up in the first half of 2014 in comparison to the similar period in 2013 on Central Railway (CR).
RPF data for the first half of 2014 indicates that there is 87 per cent increase in the number of cases registered by the agency under section 162 of the Railways Act, which prosecutes people found traveling in an unauthorized manner inside compartments reserved for women commuters. While the fine collected from offenders was Rs 2.75 lakh in 2013, that collected from offenders till July 28, was Rs 5.19 lakh. Offenders jailed for violating the provision of the Act more than doubled, with five in 2013 to 12 until July this year.
While the cases reflect an increase in the prosecution, officials also maintain the people continue to flout rules and get caught regularly.
“We continue to conduct more drives and sensitize our staff in understanding the discomfort experienced by women while traveling in trains. During the counseling session of our staff we lay special emphasis towards the problems faced by women commuters and what the RPF should do to help commuters in distress,” said Alok Bohra, senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF, CR (Mumbai).
The force has embarked on programmes like counseling sessions, mock tests and pocket duty rules manual to improve response of personnel towards women commuters.
But a severe shortage of staff – only 1,600 for the 1,618 suburban services is one of the chief cause behind delayed response.
According to estimates, for suburban railways alone a staff of 5, 000 personnel are required to ensure quick response to commuters. The Bombay High Court, hearing a PIL, was recently informed the railway board had sanctioned the appointment of 100 new constables but had sought assistance of the state government for recruitment of the constables and to pay salaries of 50 of them.