A penalty or fine may be what the rules recommend for rooftop travellers on the railways, but Senior Police Inspector Suresh Atri of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Kurla offers a rose to anyone he catches.
“Every time, I’d catch someone performing stunts atop a train, I would hand a rose to him,” said Atri. “It is befitting sometimes to correct the wrong actions of a person by making them feel guilty. Chances are they may feel sorry and not repeat it.”
Atri said his team has focused on advising youngsters not to climb atop trains or perform other stunts while hanging out of a compartment. Among other methods he has applied, Atri has even tried to take his complaints against such travellers to their employers.
“Sometimes, those caught travelling on the rooftop may not tell us the contact numbers or addresses of their parents. We would then inquire about their workplaces and then either send letters or call up their employers in a hope of asking them to counsel these youth,” added Atri.
Rooftop travellers, generally found to be in the age group of between 15-25, mostly tell officers that what drives them is the excitement or thrill.
Post April 10, upon the conversion from direct current (DC) to alternate current (AC) for local trains on the Harbour Line, it became all the more important to create mass awareness of the ills of travelling rooftop, claimed RPF officials. They also recalled of doing a regressive campaign, including sloganeering, posters and continuous counselling, to avoid youth from getting injured with these acts.
“The voltage of trains had increased from 10,000V to 25,000V from April 10 after the conversion from DC to AC for the trains on the Harbour Line. This called for increased chances of threat to lives of youngsters even if they happen to come near the wires attached,” said Ranjit Singh, Senior Inspector of the RPF, Mankhurd.
In some areas such as Mankhurd and Govandi, RPF men have approached local mosques to broadcast messages on the ills of travelling on train rooftops. “We made a request asking the masjid managements to make announcements, which they did,” said Singh.
At least, four mosques in Shivajinagar, Mahatma Phule Nagar, Maharashtra Nagar and Bharat Nagar made these announcements last month.
“Another hope that these youth would listen to such announcements as compared to warnings received from us was the aim,” Singh said, adding he also visited schools in localities around Govandi and Mankhurd stations to counsel youth there.
A rooftop traveller (adult) if caught is fined Rs 300, whereas the parents of a minor are called to the station to be counselled. RPF officials, stationed on every platform, even resort to clicking photos of these people so that they can be nabbed on the next platform. In spite of efforts made, around 150 cases of rooftop travelling were recorded and more than six persons have lost their lives, post AC conversion of local trains on the Harbour Line. Among these, the notorious sections of Mankhurd-Govandi-Chembur themselves account for around 252 cases of rooftop travelling in 2016.