Image used for representational purpose
Image used for representational purpose

Ensure safety of women travellers in Indian trains

Train travellers, especially women commuting alone, are easy targets for criminals on trains.

A horrific incident on the Mysuru-Chennai Kaveri Express on Monday night should be an eye-opener for the state and Central authorities to intensify patrolling in trains to prevent crimes against lone women and elderly travellers.

A lone woman passenger in the unreserved ladies’ coach was attacked by a chain-snatcher. While she resisted his attempts at grabbing her chain and valuables, the accused beat her black and blue, leaving her traumatised. It could have gotten worse, but the accused managed to flee with `500 cash.

The incident cannot be viewed in isolation. It exposes the vulnerability of women and elders who are travelling alone to criminals on the prowl. Train travellers, especially women commuting alone, are easy targets for criminals on trains. Incidentally, Union Minister for Railways, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a written reply in Parliament on Wednesday that as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against women in trains in 2021 had decreased compared to 2018 and 2019. No data for 2020 was considered due to the curtailment of rail services during the pandemic. The NCRB is yet to publish figures for 2022 and the current year, leaving us to rely on mere assumptions that crimes against women, children and elders in trains have fallen in 2022 and so far in 2023.

Guidelines issued by the Railways ministry in March 2021 directed Railway Protection Force (RPF) officials to patrol ladies’ compartments and deploy escorts at stations during arrivals and departures, besides increasing cooperation with the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the local police across India.

It must be implemented in toto, considering the high density of rail services in India. At least 2.40 crore passengers, around 20% of whom are women, travel daily in Indian trains. And a sizable number of these women travel alone. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, 22,593 trains operate daily across India, including 13,452 passenger trains covering 7,325 stations. The security provided by RPF and GRP remains questionable given the number of unauthorised people entering especially the sleeper class compartments. It is high time that train security is tightened to keep passengers safe from criminals.

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