Staff shortage forcing police to compromise on safety
A bulk of RPF men remained with Southern Railway
There are only 630 constables with the railway police
BANGALORE: The daring murder for gain in an unreserved compartment of the Guwahati Express a few minutes after the train left the Bangalore City Station on December 27 showed that the train security system in Karnataka is a farce.
Severe shortage of personnel in the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has endangered security at the State’s 450 railway platforms and 432 passenger trains running across Karnataka. Nearly 10 lakh people travel by trains daily in the State. There are 896 personnel, including 630 constables, 185 head constables, 38 assistant sub-inspectors, 23 sub-inspectors and 10 inspectors in the GRP. The strength of the GRP is less than the number of platforms and trains that operate in the State. Crimes reported on trains and platforms in the State have been increasing.
According to sources in the GRP, many trains run without police escort and the security at most of the platforms was inadequate. “If we focus on security on running trains, the security at the platforms will suffer. Although RPF assists us in train escort duties, their strength is inadequate,” the sources said.
In fact, Karnataka’s ratio of number of policemen per km of railway track is said to be the lowest in South India. The State has a rail length of 3,074 km, including 356 km of Konkan Railway.
Admitting that the shortage of staff has been affecting various duties of the GRP, Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Railways) N. Shivakumar told The Hindu on Wednesday that the staff strength of the force had remained the same for several years while the number of platforms and trains that pass through the State had increased dramatically. The staff strength of GRP was around 600 in 1956. There have been no fresh recruitments since 1993 when 19 people were appointed.
The expenditure of the GRP was shared by the State Government and the Railway Board, which came under the Ministry of Railways. “Although the State Government sanctioned 288 posts in the GRP in 2002, the Railway Board has not yet given its approval for the recruitment despite several correspondences,” he said.
According to sources in the Railways, the strength of RPF in Karnataka is much less compared to that in Tamil Nadu and other southern States. After the Southern Railways was bifurcated, a chunk of the RPF remained with Tamil Nadu. Karnataka, which came under the South Western Railways, was deprived of adequate RPF personnel, they said.
Mr. Shivakumar said that following the rise in the volume of passenger traffic and increasing terrorist activities, greater presence of policemen was required on railway platforms and trains. Besides, the rise in the number of agitations, VVIP journeys by trains had resulted in the diversion of policemen from crime investigation, train beat, escort and intelligence gathering duties.