Delhi gangs run amok at Railway stations
On July 12, a hawker abducted a toddler when her mother fell asleep at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi.
On May 25, a 22-year-old Mumbai woman reached New Delhi station in a huff but missed her train. Four men kidnapped her, took her to Dwarka and gangraped her.
In January, an armed gang robbed passengers inside Duronto Express for 30 minutes near Badli station in Delhi as security personnel allegedly failed to respond to SOS calls in time.
Welcome to the National Capital's railway stations- a new den for gangs committing serious crimes such as kidnapping, rape, robbery and even murder.
And numbers show how these cases are spiralling. Till July 12 in 2019, the railway wing of the Delhi Police registered 2,599 cases, up from only 1,685 during the corresponding period in 2018. It's a spike of 54 per cent.
This year, the monthly number of cases is 400, a 77 per cent jump from 225 in 2018 that saw a total of 2,700 FIRs. Data of the last 18 months shows only 25 per cent cases are solved.
Delhi has 45 railway stations handling 615 trains every day. The four important stations such as New Delhi, Old Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin and Anand Vihar alone have a daily footfall of about 11 lakh passengers. The city has a 150km railway network but only 7 police stations with 530 policemen.
Rajesh Singh, a resident of Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, shared his experience at Anand Vihar railway station. He said, "My younger brother came to Delhi for some work. A gang gave him sedative-laced tea and stole all his cash and valuables in Lichchavi Express. He was rescued at Muzaffarpur. The police need to identify such elements and put them behind bars."
Reasons for spike
Often, the reasons for the increase in these crimes are stated to be tracks and platform congestion. Because of track and platform congestion and encroachments on both flanks, trains get slow, allowing criminals to board as vendors, commit crime and get down easily.
The hotspots are Tilak Bridge, Shivaji Bridge, Seelampur, Loha Pul, Lal Quila, Daya Basti, Sabzi Mandi, Patel Nagar, Delhi Cantt, Palam, Shakur Basti, Okhla and Hazrat Nizamuddin.
Passenger Raman Yadav said at New Delhi railway station, "Trains slowing down in Delhi areas is a major concern for us. When this happens, a number of suspicious elements pose as vendors and enter coaches, especially in wee hours. There is hardly any security. I feel vulnerable."
There are other reasons, too. After the Pulwama terror attack six months ago, the government conducted an audit of Delhi's railway stations and found glaring security loopholes.
Eleven of them-- Sabzi Mandi, Daya Basti, Shakur Basti, Mangolpuri, Nangloi, Mundka, Ghewra, Palam, Sadar Bazar, Shahdara and Vivek Vihar-- had no baggage scanners, while four stations-- Shahdara, Sadar Bazar, SP Marg and Vivek Vihar lacked boundary walls to prevent intrusion.
The audit found that the railway stations faced a shortage of 416 CCTV cameras, 16 baggage scanners and 15 door frame metal detectors (DFMDs) required to prevent entry of arms, ammunitions and explosives into the premises.
It said DFMDs are not there at many railway stations such as Shivaji Bridge and Tilak Bridge, which are close to Connaught Place. Even the parcel area at New Delhi railway station had no DFMDs, it said.
Police Defence DCP (Railway) Dinesh Kumar Gupta sought to attribute the rise in numbers to online FIRs and registration of non-heinous crimes. "Of the 2,599 FIRs this year, 2,284 were registered online. It's an easy and encouraging process. There are also lots of cases of pick-pocketing and snatching," he said.
Gupta said it's difficult to solve some of the cases because online FIRs are mostly registered by passengers who have reached their destination, in other states, and don't prefer meeting investigators in railway police stations in Delhi.
"When the toddler was kidnapped on Friday, her parents immediately informed the police. We scanned CCTV camera footage and showed it to luggage carriers, hawkers, taxi drivers. The accused was found to be living in Ghaziabad's Vijay Nagar area. The case was cracked," the officer said.
The police said that all 12 criminals were arrested later even in the robbery case. "The police also managed to arrest all those who kidnapped and raped the Mumbai woman after she reached her destination and filed a complaint with the Oshiwara police," said an officer.
Gupta said a number of steps have been taken to control crime. There are mobile patrolling teams, each comprising four policemen, working with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) at every station. They use WhatsApp connected to a control room set up at the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) office at New Delhi railway station.
"We're tracking movement of strangers. On-ground cops have the authority to question suspects and act if they fail to explain their presence on railway premises," he said.
The DCP, however, admitted the available CCTV cameras cannot cover the entire railway premises. Trains are particularly vulnerable, he said.