Women cops on trains for security of female passengers

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) In a bid to improve security of women passengers travelling by train, twelve companies of women security personnel called Mahila Vahini will be raised for the purpose, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said Wednesday.

Presenting the 2010 railway budget, Banerjee said 17,000 trains ferry 18 million passengers daily across 64,015 km of the Indian rail network and, according to rough estimates, nearly half of them are women.

‘Security of women passengers will be improved by raising 12 companies of women Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel to be named Mahila Vahini,’ Banerjee said in the Lok Sabha.

‘Priority will be given to women especially those belonging to minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes and economically backward classes,’ she added.

The minister said that the RPF needs to be strengthened and modernised.

‘We need to modernise RPF and we are giving full support. Railways will bring a comprehensive bill for providing security to our passengers,’ she said.

Banerjee added: ‘As security is an important area, I have decided to involve our ex-servicemen to strengthen RPF who can give real protection to people.’

The move has been welcomed by women who travel by train frequently.

Shonali Mazumdar, a senior accounts executive working for a multinational firm in Kolkata, told IANS: ‘Women are often harassed on trains. They are groped, teased and are victims of lewd remarks especially in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata where women commute from the suburbs to their work places in the cities in local EMU and DMU shuttles. A women’s security force can help instil confidence.’

She commutes from her home in Dankuni, an industrial centre to Kolkata – a distance of 15 km from Howrah station – by a local train everyday.

‘It is a very good proposal. Women for long have felt insecure – especially the ones like us who travel frequently in long-distance overnight trains. With the increased threat of terrorism and crime on trains, women will feel reassured if the security personnel are women. It is sometimes difficult to explain difficult situation to men in times of crises,’ Ananya Chatterjee-Chakrabarty, a filmmaker and professor of film studies and journalism, told IANS.

She travels by train to Mumbai and Delhi almost every month.

Since last year, the government has been trying to increase security for women on trains. Last year, it had introduced eight new special women commuter trains on a pilot basis in the four metros of Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.

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