NEW DELHI: Dubbing the RPF as a "toothless" organisation, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha on Wednesday strongly pitched for more powers for it even as his senior ministerial colleague Piyush Goyal played down his concerns, asserting that regardless of law they should move on with their work.
Goyal also said an amendment to the existing Railways Act was only a "technicality" and urged the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) to work together to secure railways and passengers.
Speaking at a conference on security of railways, both Sinha and RPF Director General Arun Kumar pushed for handing over the registration, enquiry and detection of passenger-related crimes on board running trains to the force.
Currently, even if a crime is detected by the RPF, the case has to be handed over to the GRP for further enquiry. "RPF is a toothless organisation. It is involved in security but has no powers. Despite ability and efforts, the RPF has not got the powers it deserves. However, it is blamed for everything that happens on railway premises. But the reality is that other than taking care (of railway property), RPF has no real powers. An amendment in the law, I personally feel, is the need of the hour," Sinha said.
However, Goyal asserted that "whether the law is changed or not, whether the GRP does it or the RPF, these are all technicalities. We have to decide that we need to work together to secure passengers. Then law will not come in the way."
The RPF DG also highlighted how his force can leverage its inherent advantage of having an all India jurisdiction to prevent and detect crime in moving trains.
Since the jurisdiction of an RPF posts cuts across jurisdiction of many police stations, it has an advantage of identifying a place of occurrence, quick registration of the case and subsequent detection, Kumar added. "Therefore, we may consider empowering RPF to register, investigate and detect passenger luggage thefts so that the state police can concentrate on checking serious crimes like robbery, dacoity, rape, murder and focus its efforts in the maintenance of law and order in railway premises."
A draft bill for amendment in Railways Act to empower RPF to register, enquire and prosecute cases of passenger luggage theft and crime against women has been approved to be sent to the cabinet for further legislative action," he said.
Kumar also said that the issue of reporting and registration of crime against passengers is a weak link in the security apparatus which affects the service delivery to the passengers. The victim has to run from pillar to post to get his FIR registered without which the criminal justice system would not set in motion, he said.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was also participating in the conference, suggested to Goyal to start a facility by which passengers can file FIRs online.
"There is no facility for a passenger to file an FIR online. If somebody is travelling by train (and something happens), he need to visit GRP station to get an FIR registered. It will then go to the state, to the district and eventually to the police station concerned. There is no guarantee that he would get justice," the minister said.
"You (Railway Ministry official) need to discuss and decide on this (online FIR). We will provide all possible support from the Ministry of Home Affairs," Singh said, citing the 'crime and criminal tracking network and system' (CCTNS) for the integration of state police work implemented by his ministry.
According to official data, the RPF have arrested 146 person for alleged crime against women and handed over to the GRP and 1,39,422 male passengers were prosecuted for travelling in ladies coaches in 2018.
Special measures were taken to ensure care and protection of distressed children in trains and on railway premises, the DG said, adding the RPF was also instrumental in the rescue of 13091 children in need of care and protection during 2018.