The railway establishment was left embarrassed after the wife of one of its hierarchy's top-most officers was robbed in the prestigious 12951 Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, in the wee hours of Friday.
Preeti Sood, the wife of Central Railway general manager SK Sood, was in coach A3, when her purse containing cash, debit and credit cards and a gold bangle, were apparently stolen when the train was somewhere between Ratlam in MP and Kota in Rajasthan. Another passenger, Dipika Chawla, also lost her purse around the same time. The train, which left Mumbai Central around 5pm on Thursday, traverses the Ratlam to Kota stretch between half-an-hour past midnight and around 3:30am.
A station house officer at New Delhi railway police station told dna that as per the reports filed by the two ladies, the losses for Sood included Rs10,000 in cash and a 15 gram gold bangle. Chawla reported a loss of Rs50,000 in cash and a 20 gram gold chain.
Officials said that since the 2nd AC coaches still have curtains unlike the 3rd AC ones, which have no curtains, thus making the job easier for the thieves as it might have been difficult for passengers to see them with the curtains drawn.
Incidentally, the WR senior commandant of the Railway Protection Force Anand Vijay Jha, was travelling in the same train. Officials said Jha played sleuth and questioned several of the staff to get a clearer understanding of the theft but was unable to make much headway. The commotion, however, forced the thieves to leave the two purses in the toilet of the same coach with all their items intact expect the cash. A senior RPF officer said that it is possible that the thieves might have had a ticket and managed to gotten off either at Kota or Delhi.
Speaking to dna, CR GM SK Sood, confirmed the incident and said that his wife had filed an FIR and the railway police was investigating the case. "It is unfortunate and I'm sure the security agencies will be able to catch the people involved," said Sood.
The embarrassment got the entire railway hierarchy cracking with even a dog squad pressed into service to catch the thieves when the train pulled into New Delhi station on Friday morning.
In Mumbai, WR divisional railway manager Shailendra Kumar, called a meeting on Friday of all travelling ticket examiners (TTEs) posted on both the Rajdhani and the August Kranti, to give them a list of do's and don'ts.
Kumar said, "This is a serious issue. All TTEs have been ordered to keep a closer watch on the train, on passengers and to check if anyone is getting off midway. They have been asked to take extra measures regarding the security and safety of passengers."
For the railways, it clearly means that on-train security and safety for passengers is currently at its worst. "When a train like the Rajdhani is targeted, you know it is a bad time for the passengers. It is a train in which most of the top officials of both CR and WR travel. The number of security personnel on board (Rajdhani) is higher than almost all other trains except those which travel through Naxal hotbeds. It is a shame," said a senior railway official.
"I believe it was a lady"
Preeti Sood speaks to Dna:
"There were enough security personnel on the train. So I don't think lack of security was the main reason for the thefts. It might have been a lady because a man carrying a purse would have aroused suspicion. Since there have been some cases of theft reported on the train in the past couple of days, it could be the handiwork of an organised gang, which might be travelling on the train as bonafide passengers. I woke up at 4:30am and that's when I found the bag missing. The other incident also occurred around the same time. Hopefully, the security agencies will catch the people involved.”