States and Union Territories have shot down a proposal of the Union Government in the Ministry of Railways to amend the Railway Protection Force Act to provide for a single unified command and control system of security on Indian Railways. In this connection, at the very consultation stage, 23 States and Union Territories, out of 29 States and seven Union Territories, have responded opposing the proposal stiffly. Others, are yet to respond.
Policing and Public Order is a State Subject in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and the Centre has no jurisdiction in the matter. States and Union Territories do not want any dent in their turf by the Union Government with the result security on the railways is not effective for women, general passengers, against sabotage, subversion, untoward incidents, theft, dacoity, loot and other heinous crimes.
As a legacy of British era policing, a three-tier security system is prevailing over Indian Railways in the form of District Police (DP), Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF). DP and GRP are State Police on Railways. The RPF is railways own security system, dependent on State policing of railways for controlling crimes on railways. Integrated coordinated measures between the three security agencies are mostly slippery on the ground. Hence, the proposal for a single agency with unified command and control the need of the changing times over the entire railways for an effective security. This is needed for safety and security of passengers, to be addressed properly.
Till such time a single security command and control mechanism is put in place, effective coordination is needed among the RPF, GRP, DP, coach attendants, TTEs, and other Railway personnel connected with security to avoid slippages in security in order to ensure precautionary, protective and preventive measures to secure Indian Railways. Meanwhile, it is learnt officially that Ministry of Railways has advised zonal railways to ensure regular coordination meetings at the level of RPF Post, GRP Thana, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner/Divisional Security Commissioner, GRP and Chief Security Commissioner-Inspector General Police to provide adequate security to passengers and to ensure effective security measures.
According to official sources in the Ministry of Railways, women are being inducted in the RPF to strengthen security environment for women passengers and others in the railways. As a sequel to this, Mahila Vahinis (exclusive women units) have been sanctioned for nine zonal railways. Presently, 12 Mahila Vahinis have been approved for nine zonal railways, out of which four Mahila Vahinis have become functional. Mahila Vahinis for eight other zonal railways are yet to be raised. This is intended to instill a sense of security among women travelers. Recently, 16000 newly recruited constables including 1000 woman constables, after completion of their practical training, have joined RPF in zonal railways. Process for recruitment of 2030 woman constables, 4220 male constables and 160 Sub-Inspectors has been initiated further to strengthen manpower in RPF.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Railways has taken up with the Ministry of Finance a proposal to create 4192 posts exclusively for women in the RPF. At present, there are 2400 women in RPF including newly recruited 1000 woman constables. Further recruitment of 2030 women constables is under process, as learnt from the official sources. Besides, the Government has reserved 10 percent of vacancies in direct recruitment of constables and Sub-Inspectors for women in the RPF.
Union Government in the Ministry of Railways believes induction of more women in police force is a natural demand for contemporary policing and an inevitable requirement in the fast changing society. That is why existing strength of women in the RPF is needed to be increased substantially.
RPF has evolved from the old British chowkidari system to the Railway Protection Force under the RPF Act. It was made a Force of the Union by a later amendment in the RPF Act. It’s strength is pegged at 70,000 with a large number of vacancies of more than 10,000 remaining constantly following globalization of the Indian economy since 1991 as the Government decided to curtail manpower year on year except in the wings where it is absolutely necessary to maintain a modicum of manpower strength.
Proposed amendment to the RPF Act has a serious implications for the States and Union Territories as they would never come on board with the Union Government for a consensus on this issue. Given the current political scenario across the country, even a Chief Ministers Conference in this regard does not seem likely to bell the cat. As railway security continues to be in jeopardy, there is no possibility of a breakthrough in beefing up railway security in the foreseeable future!
- By M.Y.Siddiqui