The recent “drugging” of two women on board the Jammu Tawi–Tirunelveli Express and theft of cash and jewellery from them has once again exposed the vulnerability of train passengers to doping offences in long-distance trains.

As usual, the offenders had committed the crime well beyond the jurisdiction of the Southern Railway zone. Conduct of awareness campaigns through various modes cautioning rail passengers to remain vigilant with strangers while travelling and deployment of escort teams on board trains notwithstanding, the fresh case of drugging has reminded the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) of the persisting challenge before them.

The Tiruchi-bound victims Lakshmi (53) and her daughter Divya who boarded the train at Ludhiana on October 29 were reportedly relieved of 25 sovereigns of gold jewellery and Rs. 50,000 in cash after being allegedly drugged by a young couple who were their fellow travellers in the 2-tier AC coach from New Delhi.

By the time the victims, who fell unconscious after consuming badam milk mixed with strong dose of sedatives offered by the couple at Gwalior, realised the loss after gaining consciousness, it was too late. Medical assistance was provided to them at Vijayawada and a complaint was lodged in Tiruchi upon their arrival here. The Government Railway Police, Tiruchi that registered the case has transferred it to their Gwalior counterparts since the crime occurred there.

RPF authorities say a majority of doping offences take place beyond the jurisdiction of the Southern Railway zone. Of the 31 doping offence cases reported in 2009, only six took place within Southern Railway jurisdiction with the rest occurring in other railway zones. Of the six, two had been detected with the rest being “under investigation”.

Out of the 15 drugging cases reported in the current year till now, only two had taken place within Southern Railway limits while the rest pertain to other railway zones. A top RPF officer said gangs hailing from Bihar and West Bengal were arrested in this connection. Such crimes take place mostly in north India, the officer said adding that decoy checks were being conducted on board trains with a view to checking the offences.

The modus operandi of the culprits is to travel for long hours as bonafide travellers and gain the confidence of the gullible passengers by befriending them. The offenders strike at the opportune time by offering the victims eatables mixed with strong dose of sedatives and decamp with cash and other costly valuables, say the authorities.

Photographs and profiles of offenders involved in such crimes were being shared with all zones in an effort to put their activities under check and bring them to book, say the authorities. Awareness among passengers is equally important in checking such offences. They should not accept eatables given by strangers while travelling, the authorities say.