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Metro's mantras for safe travel

Prashant Pandey

A JOURNEY on the Delhi Metro railway has come to be associated not only with comfort but also safety. The credit for this goes both to the Metro rail police and the focused planning, management and enforcement.

To begin with, the police personnel deployed at Metro stations and on trains manage to do a good job as they form part of a management system. The system itself is not totally dependent on them. Apart from the police, there are private security guards hired by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and also volunteers, who are there to help the people and keep an eye on anybody trying to create trouble.

Not that the Metro rail police do not have their own problems. The number of police personnel on Metro duty is not adequate. They have been asked to "outsource" police duties as the Union Home Ministry did not clear the proposal for sanctioning more personnel for Metro duty. If a couple of policemen need to be given a break, often there are no replacements. As against the present two Metro rail police stations, three more would be required.

However, working in close coordination with private security guards and volunteers, the police have managed to keep the rides in Metro largely incident free. Last year, only 14 cases, pertaining to minor complaints, were registered. In fact, the first case - of a chartered accountant found carrying counterfeit currency - was registered at the Shastri Park Metro police station due to thorough frisking. "Apart from the escort duties, things are kept under control by regulating the entry and exit of passengers," explained the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways), Ajay Kumar, adding that less the unwanted elements, the minimum would be the risk of any crime taking place. This ensures that half the job of keeping the system safe and comfortable is already done.

The other part of the exercise is enforcement. "We sometimes get complaints from passengers when they are disallowed to travel. But we do not deal with them leniently," said a police officer. People have complained to the police about not being allowed on the Metro because they were carrying a guitar and even kerosene oil.

Initially, however, the police, security guards and the volunteers had concentrated on educating the people as the system was a novelty. Later, as the awareness increased about the system, the police decided to be tough on passengers violating the rules.

Being a rather closed system dedicated only to local travel, keeping a check on the Metro rail seems to be a rather easy task. But police officials feel that this could be replicated on "normal" railway stations also. As it is, the experiences of those transiting through bigger railway stations are not always good.

Of course, the magnitude factor would make the comparison between a Metro rail station and bigger railway stations -- in terms of the number of passengers and the volume of luggage -- sound illogical. Also, the nature of travel in Metro trains is completely different from normal train travel. But, police officials say, it is all about inter-agency coordination, planning and implementation. "There will be problems. But with a concerted effort and better coordination the situation can definitely improve," said Mr. Kumar. Big railway stations can, of course, not be run as a strictly closed system like the Metro railway. Still, if the Railway Protection Force, the Delhi Traffic Police and the Delhi railway police, along with civic agencies and railway management, can come together, plans could be devised to deal with various problems. Provided they are equally serious about implementation.

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