“ >7/11 accused selected local trains because they were crowded and soft targets, therefore suitable for causing explosions. They had surveyed other places too, like World Trade Centre, Stock Exchange, Siddhivinayak Temple, but avoided them due to tight security,” reads the charge sheet.
If the 2006 incident served as a reminder for upgrading the security apparatus guarding the Mumbai suburban railway network, the > 26/11 attacks two years later further underlined the dire need for better security for 75 lakh daily commuters using the three lines — Central, Western and Harbour.
Fast-forward to >September 2015, when manpower and technical surveillance capacity has been significantly improved from that of 2006. There are, however, many gaps which need to be plugged, none more glaring than the lack of access control present in closed networks such as the Delhi and Mumbai metro rail.
With the Western and Central wings of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) adding a fresh batch of personnel in their Mumbai units in September, this is for the first time that the RPF is operating with at or near full capacity. While there is no vacant post lying in the Western division, which has a sanctioned strength of 1,200, the Central division with a 2,300-strong force is marginally short of its full strength of 2,542.
Senior Divisional Security Commissioner of RPF (Central Railways) Sachin Bhalode added that while there were no CCTV cameras in stations at the time of the 2006 attacks, most of the major stations were equipped with proper cameras and control rooms where those are monitored.
Door-frame metal detectors have been placed at many stations, but the wide doors ensure that passengers can enter the stations without necessarily passing through one.
The passenger volume, say officials, is the biggest roadblock to setting up of access-control measures. However, one of the recent measures taken by Western Railways is introducing the same in stations such as Mumbai Central, Bandra and Borivali, where long-distance trains halt.