Several women commuters of the Solapur-Pune passenger service were robbed in the early hours of Saturday, despite the presence of Government Railway Police (GRP) armed personnel who, claimed the women, were fast asleep in the adjacent coach. A video, in which the passengers can be seen entering the GRP personnel’s coach and waking them up, is being circulated on social media. While some of the passengers told The Indian Express that they were robbed of their jewellry, cellphones and valuables at knife point, police have registered a complaint under sections 379 (theft) and 356 (use of force for theft) of the Indian Penal Code, instead of the relevant section 392 (robbery).
The incident comes barely a week after Prabhakar Budhwant, Superintendent of Police, GRP, announced that GRP personnel will be deployed on trains that were vulnerable to robberies and thefts. Describing the incident, Reshma Shaikh, 35, a resident of Baramati, said as many as six robbers entered the ladies’ compartment of the train at about 4.15 am on Saturday, while its occupants were sleeping.
“They were carrying knives… they threatened the passengers and snatched their jewellry… my daughter lost her earrings and gold chains worth Rs 40,000. They also took away our cellphones. In our coach, they robbed at least 10-12 women. Once the train slowed down, they jumped off,” said Shaikh. The passengers then pulled the emergency alarm, bringing the train to a halt.
“There was no sign of any policeman. After much effort, we found out that the police personnel were sleeping in an adjacent coach. We went to the coach and woke them up. Some of us recorded it,” said Shaikh.
According to Popat Chavan, who was also travelling in the same train, the women passengers insisted that the train be halted at Daund, so that a complaint could be registered with the GRP police station there. But no such halt was made and the robbery victims could file a complaint only after the train reached Pune station.
“Many of the women deboarded on the way. Only two of the complainants reached Pune railway station, where we were told that the incident took place in the jurisdiction of the Solapur Division, so a complaint should be registered in Daund. Finally… they registered a complaint at the Pune station chowky, and asked the women to remain present in Daund on Monday,” said Chavan.
The incident shows that despite the promises made by SP Budhwant, there has been no change in the security scenario on board trains, said Harsha Shah of the Railway Pravasi Group. “What’s the point of deploying policemen on trains if they are fast asleep throughout the night? This incident shows that travellers, especially in general compartments, remain at the mercy of goons and robbers,” said Shah.
Budhwant, however, defended the decision to file cases of theft instead of robbery, saying the IPC sections had been applied accurately. The senior GRP cop said he had not seen the video, but promised that he will take action if the on-duty GRP personnel were found sleeping during the incident. He also said it’s the Railway Protection Force’s primary responsibility to guard trains.