Though rules provide for on-board security and safety of passengers, shortage of security personnel often throws a spanner in Railways' planning resulting in tragedies of the kind witnessed in the gruesome murder of a young woman passenger at Shoranur last week.

There are only 274 Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel for security duty in the Palakkad Railway Division which takes care of 578 route kilometre area spread over Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. When the Palakkad division was bifurcated sometime back, a good number of the RPF personnel came under the Salem division and Palakkad has not been compensated for the loss yet, railway sources said.

Besides, the number of policemen deputed by the Kerala Police to manage police stations set up at various railway stations in the division is insufficient. There are only 221 Kerala Police personnel to manage six railway police stations in the division, covering an area from Shoranur to Manglore and Palakkad to Pollachi and Kinattikadavi near Pothannur. Palakkad Railway Junction is manned by just 44 police personnel, headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy.SP). In Shoranur it is 39, Thrissur 20, Kozhikode 59, Kannur 40 and Kasaragod 19.

Officials at the Palakkad railway police station said that 40 per cent of the staff are often given other duties. In effect, only 50 per cent of the personnel are available for security duty at the stations and on trains, ie. 110 personnel on a day in the entire division.

The staff pattern of the Palakkad railway police station is: one Dy.SP, one sub-inspector (SI), three grade sub-inspectors (GSIs), 36 constables, three women constables and one driver. In Shoranur, the strength is one SI, four GSIs, 30 constables, three women police constables and one driver. The Kasaragod police station has only 19 personnel: one SI, eight GSIs, nine constables and one woman constable. And they cover the entire area from Kasaragod to Manglore.

This often affects the mobile patrol duty on trains. Only three mobile patrol squads often operate in the division. In some cases, there are no women constables in the squad. The squad goes only up to Madhukarai.

The Kerala Police Association has sought adequate staff in the police stations set up for railway safety. But railway authorities are not interested in the proposal as they have to meet half the salary of the policemen deputed by the Kerala Police.

Vendors selling vegetables and other goods and beggars in crowded compartments is another problem. In stations such as Walayar, Kanjikode and Shoranur, the chairs and benches meant for passengers are often occupied by anti-social elements. There are no restrictions for entry to railway stations and passenger amenities in most of the stations, it is said.

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