BENGALURU: Four-year-old Vignesh and his father were travelling to Ramanagaram from Mysuru in the general compartment of Hampi Express when he felt a sharp pain in his left eye. He had just been struck by a stone hurled at the moving train.
It was 7.30 am on January 26, and the train was somewhere between Naganahalli and Srirangapatna.
Vignesh’s father immediately contacted the Railway Protection Force (RPF), which sent an ambulance to the next stop, Mandya, and shifted the boy to a government hospital. He was later shifted to a private eye hospital in Bengaluru.
Menace on the Rise
Vignesh is one of the many victims of stone-pelting at trains in and around the city. According to S Louis Amuthan, senior divisional security commissioner, RPF, Bangalore division, in January alone, there were four such incidents.
The menace appears to be on the rise as, in 2014, a total of 13 such cases were recorded, injuring six passengers and four railway employees, and damaging rail property.
The stone-pelters are usually young, roguish slum boys. The trains which are targeted most often are those that pass through Byappanahalli, Nayandahalli, Yelahanka and Banaswadi stations, all of which have huge slum populations in their vicinity.
Apart from the passengers, the Railways is concerned about the drivers and guards, because of their “vulnerable positions” in the train. While the guard stands by the open compartment door, the loco driver sits in a compartment with glass windows that can be easily smashed with a well-aimed stone. This has happened a few times, Amuthan told Express.
“The stone-pelters seem to harbour a hatred towards those travelling in air-conditioned compartments as the closed window panes are often hit. Those sitting near open windows in sleeper coaches too are attacked sometimes,” he said.
Even if RPF personnel end up catching the pelters, they cannot punish them. “The law is on the side of stone-pelters as most of them are minors and so, no legal action can be taken against them,” the security commissioner said.
Spreading Awareness: He added that RPF has been trying to tackle the issue by taking up awareness and sensitisation campaigns in government schools in slums. After one such stone-pelting incident, a ‘Campaign Against Stone-throwing’ was conducted. He said changing the mindset of stone-pelters was key and one-on-one talks by Railway officials and distribution of pamphlets are steps towards this.
Rlys Advises Caution Near Gates
The Bengaluru Railway Division has cautioned the public to be careful while crossing railway gates. According to a press release sent out on Friday, six cases of vehicles, mainly lorries, hitting and damaging railway gates were reported from January 20 to February 1. The most dangerous spots are the level crossings between Yeshwantpur bypass and Chikkabanawara; Dodbele and Nidavande on the Tumakuru section; Hosur and Anekal; Channasandra and Yelahanka; and the gate near Ramanagaram yard. The vehicles have been seized and owners booked for violations, the release stated.
Train Services Extended
The services of the Howrah-Yeshwantpur-Howrah Premium Special (02863/02864) train has been extended to clear extra rush. The Howrah-YPR Weekly Premium Special (Train No 02863) will leave Howrah on Mondays at 11 am and arrive at Yeshwantpur at 4 pm on Tuesdays. In the return direction, the YPR-Howrah Weekly Premium Special (No 02864) will leave Yeshwantpur on Wednesdays at 11.15 am and arrive at Howrah at 4 pm on Thursdays. The last run of the extended service from Howrah will be on February 23, a press release from the Railways said.