RPF constables posted in ladies’ compartments from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.

Elimination of petty crimes and prevention of harassment by male passengers have made suburban travel comfortable and safe for women returning home late in the night or leaving for work in the early hours.

This is thanks to an experiment by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to ensure safe passage for women travelling on trains at night, by deploying men constables in every suburban train, on all routes in and around Chennai, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

For over a month now, RPF constables have been travelling in the front and rear ladies’ compartments of all trains, from Chennai Beach to Tambaram and Velachery and from Moore Market Complex to Tiruvallur and Gummidipoondi.

“The change is there for all to see and I am really happy. Earlier men would enter ladies’ compartments pretending to have boarded it by mistake. Many of them engaged in loud conversations, while others would just stare at us,” said P. Thulasi, who works in a BPO and travels between Nungambakkam and Pallavaram every day.

S.R. Gandhi, senior divisional security commissioner of RPF, carried out an inspection last week. He was told by the women passengers that male commuters, including those waiting at platforms, often passed lewd remarks at them. The presence of policemen in ladies’ compartments now helped keep these lumpen elements at bay.

“For women like me, who return home late or leave for work early in the morning, the presence of a policeman in the compartment is reassuring,” said S. Hemamalini of Perungalathur.

Mr. Gandhi said 60 constables would be on duty every night, travelling in the trains.

Till November 2013, 79 cases of crime and property offences — snatching of chains and purses — and other assaults were reported in Chennai division and 49 of the victims were women.

Since the launch of the RPF initiative 45 days ago, crimes against women commuters in the late night and early morning hours have been eliminated, said Mr. Gandhi.

The service could be extended to trains between Tambaram and Chengalpattu once RPF vacancies in the Chennai division are filled. At present, there are about 200 vacant posts, said Mr. Gandhi.

Women commuters said they hope the arrangement would continue and not stop once the experiment proves successful.

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