KOCHI: Night travel on trains in the state is becoming unsafe for women. Be it express or passenger trains, women are increasingly facing molestation and sexual harassment on board, besides being the targets of eve-teasers and exhibitionists.
Many such incidents go unreported as the perpetrators escape, thanks to the absence of personnel from the railway protection force and the railway police at stations. Uma (name changed), a 20-year-old working with a private firm in Kakkanad, had a bitter experience on board the Nilambur Road-Kottayam passenger that departs from Ernakulam North at 7:55pm.
“As the ladies compartment remains empty, I along with another woman and her son boarded the general compartment,” she said. Things were fine for some time after the train moved out of the station, on its way to Kottayam.“But as the train was entering the Piravom Road station, a man suddenly made a noise to attract my attention and flashed his genitals.
When I shouted, he quickly jumped off the train onto the platform and escaped into the night,” Uma said. The incident shocked the youngster so much that she stopped travelling by train for some time. Priya (name changed), a bank official, faced a much more frightening situation a few weeks back. She had boarded the Trivandrum Central- Mangalore Central Maveli Express around 7:25pm.
“Trivandrum Central is the originating station for the train and I boarded the compartment in which I had reserved a seat. I was all alone in the compartment since I had reached early and the other passengers were yet to board,” said Priya. She then noticed a man enter the compartment.
“I thought he was a passenger. But he came near me and began masturbating. I was frightened, and very angry too. I screamed and shouted at him, all the while calling for the cops who, alas, never arrived,” she said. However, Priya was lucky as her screaming and shouting made the man run away.
“Not all are that lucky,” said Lyons J, the secretary of Friends on Rails, a railway passengers’ welfare group. He said Friends on Rails frequently gets WhatsApp messages from women who find themselves in tough situations, especially during night travel.
The railway protection force is citing a lack of sufficient personnel, he pointed out. Meanwhile, Tanvi Praful Gupte, senior divisional security commissioner of the railway protection force, said, “The shortage of personnel is the main reason behind the inability of the RPF to deploy escorts on trains. However, we have been deploying escorts on long-distance trains, especially those that run at night.”