Railways on terror target as govt sits pretty
Railways faces a grave security threat from Maoists and terrorists, according to intelligenceofficials, but little is being done to upgrade the security apparatus for the network spanning 8,000 stations.
The Intelligence Bureau(IB) has been sending constant inputs on threat perception to the railways. According to a recent input, Maoist-linked sabotages are a major concern. Maoist threat on the eve of Independence Day disrupted train services in Mughalsarai division.
Officials blame the obsolete security apparatus and shortage of manpower for the situation. The Railway Protection Force(RPF), responsible for providing security in trains and stations, is heavily understaffed.
In the last six years, railways has been the target of at least four major terrorist/Maoist attacks.
The Mumbai train bombings in July 2006 killed 209 people; Samjhauta Express blasts killed 68 people in February 2007; the attack on Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus during the 26/11 carnage killed 58; and the Jnaneswari Express derailment in May 2010 in West Bengal, which was allegedly the handiwork of Maoists, killed 148 people.
According to sources in the intelligence agencies, train accidents attributed to sabotage have been rising over the last few years. This year alone, there have been four to five accidents due to suspected sabotage.
An internal assessment by the RPF says the force strength should be around three lakh, but as of now the sanctioned strength stands at only 75,000. Even this requirement is not met as there are more than 14,000 vacancies.
Shockingly, a force given the mandate to provide security for railways across India has less manpower than even the Delhi Police that has 80,000 personnel. “The figure of three lakh is a conservative one.
This is the manpower needed to provide the most basic security in trains and railway stations,” an RPF officer said.
The RPF’s assessment takes into account security for all the 14,000 passenger trains, access control at 100 important stations, security of goods trains and protection of railway property.
In a shocking admission, the official said, “Out of 14,000 passenger trains, armed RPF personnel are present in only about 2,000. As far as the stations are concerned, there are only about 50 across the country with proper access control.”
This lack of manpower in the force has also been bothering the intelligence agencies. “The threat perception to railways is very high. High profile trains and important stations are always on the terrorists’ radar. The lack of manpower makes them even more vulnerable,” an intelligence official said.
Although the railways has already introduced the integrated security system(ISS) at some stations which is expected to cover nearly 200 stations by next year, the apprehension is that the manpower shortage will prove to be a hindrance in the functioning of the system.
The system comprises automatic vehicle scanners, CCTV surveillance, door frame metal detectors and X-ray machines. “Even for this to work smoothly, we need more manpower. Unless the strength of RPF increases drastically, all this cannot work,” a railway board member said.