Sentinels ensure women's safety on Hubli division trains

Team provides protection, creates awareness, helps victims file FIRs
Last Updated 29 March 2013, 18:10 IST

“If any of your male co-passengers misbehave or harass you, pull the train’s chain,” police constable Sulochana Hiremath counsels women passengers on her megaphone on the Janshatabdi Express. Her duty: create awareness among women passengers about the dos and don’ts when on the train.

Sulochana is part of a six-member team of the Railway Police Force at Hubli who advise women passengers not to display their gold ornaments; be careful about strangers; not consume eatables given by strangers, etc.

The Railway ministry introduced female escorts on trains in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape last December. There are 18 railway divisions in India, of which three are in Karnataka. But, the Hubli Division of the South Western Railways is the only one which has deployed female escorts. The Bangalore and Mysore divisions are also chalking out plans to do so. Currently, these divisions provide security only at women’s waiting halls and compartments when the train is at a station.

The team

In Hubli, the programme was started a month ago. Sangeetha R H, Shobha Sudi, Ranjana N N, Ingamma G Hiremath and Sujatha N M are the others in the team. They escort women in the morning trains such as the Hyderabad-Kolhapur Express, Amravati Express, Bellary-Hubli link Express and also provide security on trains between Miraj in Maharashtra to Bellary, the last station in the Hubli Division jurisdiction.

Though cases of chain-snatching, eve-teasing and sexual harassment are reported on trains, many women do not come forward to file a complaint.
Says Train Escort Company Inspector Shaikh Rahamatullah: “Our escorts not only create awareness and provide protection to women passengers, but they also help victims to file an FIR onboard, reducing the burden of passengers going in search of a police station.”

Every day, on an average, the Hubli junction handles 27 trains and 35,000 passengers. However, due to shortage of staff, the Railway authorities are not able to provide female escorts on all trains. “Presently, we have escorts on trains that are more vulnerable,” he said. The Hubli division needs another 25-30 female escorts to cover all the trains. A proposal to increase the strength of women constables has been sent to the higher officials.

No cakewalk

The escorting job hasn’t been that easy for these women, as many passengers do not take them seriously. “Women have to take care of themselves. No matter how many times we tell them to be careful, there are some who do not take us seriously and end up losing their belongings,” says Sujatha.

“When we ask male passengers to leave the women’s compartment, they argue with us and abuse us. They ask us to introduce separate compartments for men,” said Shobha Sudi. “Including senior railway officials, many male passengers do not co-operate with us. Many among them come drunk and ask us all sorts of nonsense.”

Apart from onboard problems, the escorts also face problems on platforms as most stations do not have rest rooms for them. They end up using the female waiting room. The Railway Board has written to all the general managers to upgrade the facilities wherever required. This year’s Railway budget has allocated funds for these proposals and the works will begin soon, said Rahamatullah.

(Published 28 March 2013, 17:46 IST)

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