While the arrival of Ishaant and Lord, the adorable doberman and labrador pups who will be trained as tracker and sniffer has finally completed the RPF's depleted canine squad, the row over whether they should have been allotted a 2nd AC class berth to travel from Miraj to CST is far from over.
The Central Railways (CR) RPF's canine squad for Mumbai division now has a full sanctioned strength of 37 dogs, including 31 sniffers and 6 trackers. The two pups will be sent for training in October.
"It is a vast division extending from CST all the way to Roha, which is almost 150 kms away. There are over 1,500 suburban trains, a hundred-odd long distance trains and so many stations, yards and goods depots which these dogs have to keep a watch on," said an official.
A depleted squad meant that most of these dogs would invariably end up being over-worked, which would also decrease their efficiency, said officials. "We in Mumbai encounter a fair share of hoax calls. They take a heavy toll on the dogs," said the official.
Meanwhile, the commercial department and the CR's RPF unit are still sparring over whether pups Lord and Ishaant should have been allotted 2nd AC berths for transportation. Sources said the matter is being referred to the CR headquarters for what one official called 'absolute clarity'.
While the commercial department has maintained that RPF dogs also fall under stipulations of Section 77-A of the Railways Act that governs transportation of normal dogs, the RPF disagrees. Section 77-A allows dogs to be transported along with the owner in first AC provided co-passengers are fine with it. All other classes are off-limits for dogs, who have to be kept in dog-boxes in the guard's brake van, which is attached to the end of the train.
However, the RPF contends that another circular allows RPF dogs be taken even in 2nd AC coaches if they are going on official duty or to participate in government-mandated dog shows.
"The authorities will have to decide between one of the two circulars. Imagine a situation where dogs are not allowed for security checks in AC coaches by ticket checkers? RPF dogs are being taken in 2nd AC all over the country since the inclusion of canines in railway security. The first class pass is applicable and valid in 2 AC," said an RPF official.