Citing increasing crime against passengers on trains, particularly theft, robbery and crime against women, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has sought permission from the Railway Ministry to widen their powers to include filing FIRs and investigating cases.
According to data accessed by The Indian Express, theft aboard trains across the country doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year, while robbery cases increased by almost 70 per cent. Data also shows that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh topped the list of states where the most crime was reported.
While a total of 71,055 crimes were reported across the country in 2017, compared to 39,355 the year before, 20,777 crimes were reported till March in 2018. Crime against women, including rape, increased from 604 in 2016 to 641 in 2017, while 193 cases were reported until March this year.
Presently, the RPF investigates only criminal cases related to railway property, and relies on the Government Railway Police (GRP), under state governments, to register FIRs and investigate cases.
According to official records, Maharashtra reported 11,614 crimes till March this year, while 33,145 were reported in 2017 and 7,338 were in 2016. “The reason behind this sudden rise is that crime on local trains were taken into account. This may explain the inordinate number of crimes reported from Maharashtra,” said an RPF official.
Sources told The Indian Express that two proposals to widen the ambit of the RPF were sent to the Centre earlier, but were both rejected. “Recently, a proposal was first sent to the Railway Ministry seeking amendments in the RPF Act to empower the RPF to register and investigate cases of crime related to passengers’ safety too. The proposal was accepted on Monday and now it has been forwarded to the law ministry,” said a senior RPF official.
“In the proposal, the RPF has cited crime figures along with the experiences that passengers faced while lodging their complaints. By empowering the RPF, victims will not be put under undue inconvenience by being forced to run from one place to another.”
The RPF, which comes under the Centre, presently lodges cases under the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act and the Indian Railway Act, 1966. They also register offences of ticketless travelling, travelling on rooftops and footboards, trespassing, chain pulling, forged tickets, touting, illegal vending, smoking, bringing dangerous and offensive goods on railway premises, an official said.
“Now, if suspects are caught by the RPF, they handed over to the GRP. But with the amendment, they can register cases aboard a moving train as one RPF company always travels in any train and they can investigate all the cases immediately,” said an official.