Swathi’s murder also exposes the impoverished condition of Government Railway Police

The GRP is like the step-child of the Railways department, says an officer.
Swathi’s murder also exposes the impoverished condition of Government Railway Police
Swathi’s murder also exposes the impoverished condition of Government Railway Police
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When the Chennai city police took over the Swathi murder case from the Government Railway Police, it had already been two days since the murder. Senior officials of the Chennai city police lamented to the media that they now have to start from scratch, and that the investigation was delayed because the case was not handed over to them by the Government Railway Police on the first day.

That was not entirely true, because the city police had in fact already started investigating the crime informally on the day of the murder itself, even though the case was with the GRP. Speaking to The News Minute, an IPS officer from the state cadre said, “The GRP just do not have the resources, they cannot solve a case like this. I don’t understand why they had to keep the case with them for two days, it was a bad call.”

The Swathi murder case has hence inadvertently shone the light on the impoverished condition of policing in our railway stations, and more specifically, the Government Railway Police.

There are two police forces which bear the responsibility of law and order in the railway system. One is the Railway Protection Force, and the other is the Government Railway Police.

The RPF is directly under the control of the Railway Ministry and is only responsible for the protection of Railway property. They are basically guards, they have to keep a watch to make sure nothing goes missing, and take necessary action if something does.

The GRP, on the other hand, is the force which is responsible for maintaining the law and order in Railway property, both at stations and inside trains. They are responsible for the safety of the passengers. Importantly, they are under the aegis of the state government, since Law and Order is a part of the State list in Part XI of the Constitution of India. However, the funding of the GRP is split between the state government and the railway ministry. You can read about their role here.

It was the Government Railway Police which was responsible for Swathi’s safety, and the investigation over the next two days before the city cops took over. But senior police officials say that the GRP is in no condition to investigate such a crime. “The railways department treats them like their step child,” says an officer who served with the GRP in Tamil Nadu few years ago.

The impoverished condition of the GRPs is no secret. Recently, after 50 long years, the Karnataka GRP decided to increase the strength of its force by creating more than 1000 posts. What’s even worse, of the 900 which were already sanctioned, nearly 300 were vacant as of June 2016. In 2014, owing to increasing crime in MRTS stations in Chennai, the GRP sought to take help from the RPF and Friends of Police to beef up security because they did not have enough of their own.

Bhaskar Rao, who is now ADGP Crime in Karnataka and was in-charge of the state GRP earlier, opens up about the woes of the state GRPs.

“The main problem is human resources. Railways has grown in large proportions, but the police force has not," he says, "The GRP is dwindling systematically. Despite several proposals, the railways department has not looked into improving the strength of the force. Now several states are requisitioning Home Guards,” he says.

And it isn’t just the numbers. He says that the Bengaluru City railway station has about 2-3 lakh passengers every day, but only 45 video cameras of which many don’t function or are too old. And this situation is prevalent all over the country. “Technologically, the GRP is very weak. Not all state government are extending help to modernize the GRP.”

Another major problem of the GRP is also disposal of dead bodies. “There is a problem with the law which prevents them in taking care of the dead body immediately, so how do they do their job?’ he asks. Recently, the body of a woman in Bengaluru was further mauled by another train after she was killed by train earlier.

In addition to all this, the GRP also has to police the pilferage mafia which steal goods during transport.

So what can be done immediately?

Rao says that a safety audit should be the first step. “Railways huge. There are several mafias operating there. So if we have to crackdown, then there has to be a professional safety audit of all the stations to know what the lacunae are.”

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