The Central Railway (CR) has decided against adding any more emergency panic buttons in the women’s compartments of suburban trains after a series of false alarms generated by the use of the newly introduced feature led to problems in running smooth services.
The CR had decided to install more panic buttons in coaches of the ladies compartments by the end of June. In the beginning of May, panic buttons were installed in one of the ladies coaches on the Harbor line as an initiative to ensure better safety measures for female commuters.
However, railway officials claimed the service caused more problems than it resolved.
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“We have decided to not go ahead with the installation of additional panic buttons in the ladies’ coaches of the trains. At this point of time, all we want to do is just observe its usage in the one rake in which it has been installed and test its efficacy,” added a senior CR official from the electrical department.
Officials confirmed that many train services had to return to the previous station after a button was pressed by a female commuter. This led to a problem with bunching of trains that delayed train services.
Claiming to have received no genuine complaint after installation of the button, Sachin Bhalode, Divisional Railway Security Commissioner, Central Railway said, “It has been a month since the button was installed in the ladies’ coaches in the train and we have not received even a single genuine complaint from it. Apart from that seven to eight cases of frivolous usage of the button has been recorded by our team, since its installation.”
Adding to the confusing nature of usage of the button, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) official said, “The usage of the panic button is actually quite confusing. If help has to be reached to a person, they are eligible to call on available helpline number and any RPF official will cater to the problem. However, upon pressing the panic button, the train gets stopped for a few minutes. What kind of help is one expected to offer to any aggrieved person immediately, if at all, the train gets stopped in between two stations?”
The button was the brainchild of Matunga Workshop,officials of which believed in providing instant help to female commuters of suburban railways in times of trouble. Expressing concern over its wrong usage, Mahesh Kumar, Chief Workshop Manager said, “During the installation of the panic button, we had made sure of sticking appropriate posters in the compartment. The posters were expected to teach the reason and manner of usage of this button to the ladies. Sadly, we have no explanation on why the same is not happening.”
Explaining how female commuters will be at a loss through this act, Vijay Aravamudhan, railway activist said, “The emergency panic button was a very good system and could be considered as the best protection system for ladies, especially for those who find themselves commuting alone in the ladies compartment at night. But, if it is going to be wrongly utilized by them, I believe they are the ones who are at a loss.
Raising false alerts puts a big burden on the railway police staff, who try hard to reach out during actual incidences of such kind. I believe, the railways must go ahead with installation of more buttons in other ladies’ compartments and also come out with some kind of detective control to find out who is pressing the panic button and for what reason.”