Rising body counts on railway tracks

Handicapped by staff shortage, railway police are unable to probe suspicious deaths

Rising body counts on railway tracks

The number of deaths on railway tracks has been on the rise over the years, across the State. The scenario in Bengaluru is no different with over 700 deaths, including suicide and accidental, reported in 2014. Indian Railways and the State Railway police, the agencies responsible for keeping a check on the rising deaths, are pointing at lack of human and financial resources.

The State Railway Police have been managing 362 railway stations and 620 platforms under their jurisdiction spread across 3,089 km of railway tracks and properties in Karnataka. The staff crunch at the Railway Police has not been addressed for ages. Home Minister K J George, while inaugurating a control room at the Bengaluru City Railway Station recently, had admitted that recruitment for Railway Police has not taken place since 1977. “The sanctioned strength of Railway Police itself is less, of which vacancy of police constables is 197. The vacancies of head constables are 79, Assistant Sub-Inspectors 11 and Sub-Inspectors nine,” informed a senior official.

In and around Bengaluru City itself, Railway Police have jurisdiction till the borders with neighbouring states in all directions. Any death within the railway property comes under the jurisdiction of the Railway Police. The statistics on the deaths within the City jurisdiction – Bengaluru City Railway Station, Bengaluru Rural Station (Yeshwantpur), Bengaluru Cantonment Station and Byappanahalli – show that there have been hundreds of unnatural deaths, both suicidal and accidental, on railway tracks.

Last year, the Yeshwantpur region recorded the highest number of deaths (228), followed by Bengaluru City Railway Station region (216), Cantonment (170) and Byppanahalli area (94).

The question is, with the acute shortage of staff, how will the Railway Police differentiate between a suicidal and an accidental death? In fact, the state-wide statistics of deaths on railway tracks show that accidental deaths are more in number as against suicides. “The spot investigation and post mortem details are crucial to decide whether the death was a suicide or an accident. There have been a few incidents wherein relatives of the deceased suspected foul play about the death. When post mortem report and circumstantial evidence also point at foul play, we transfer the case to the jurisdictional law and order police station for further investigation. Even in Bengaluru, accidental deaths are more in number because people try to cross the tracks to save a few metres of walking,'' explains the official.
The South Western Railways' plan to build safety walls all along its property has not come through. Divisional Railway Manager of South Western Railways Anil Kumar Agarwal says that the work to build walls to safeguard railway property will take off soon.

“We do want to build walls all along the railway property in the City. The purpose is to safeguard the railway property, which will also help reduce deaths on tracks. There have been repeated instances of heaps of garbage being dumped on the tracks. There are also cases of encroachment of Railway property. In our experience, people break the wall to cross the tracks and put their own lives at risk,” he points out.

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