The Railway Protection Force authorities in Mumbai have chanced upon a dangerous trend among some of their personnel. The officials have found that several of their personnel in the anti-sabotage units, who should move around in bulletproof vests and helmets, armed with assault rifles are using riot gear vests instead of the bulletproof ones.
The reason, they have found out is that the riot gear vests are lighter, comes covered with disruptive pattern camouflage clothing, and decrease the load that the personnel otherwise have to carry. While the bulletproof vests came in almost two years ago, the riot gear vests came in a couple of months ago.
The danger, however, lies in the fact that these riot gear vests have polycarbonate plates in them, which can protect the wearer from stones, rods, crude bombs — the usual dangers faced in a riot — but are absolutely useless against both small firearm and assault rifle bullets.
“The total load of a fully uniformed anti-sabotage personnel can go up to 30 kilograms. Moving about at the stations at night, hopping onto and off trains, is tiresome. Now, with these riot gear vests the weight comes down considerably,” said a senior RPF official.
Officials on condition of anonymity told dna that verbal orders had been issued to RPF inspectors to ensure that the practice is stopped forthwith including handing out suspensions to the violators. Several RPF posts have begun to keep the riot gear vests and the bulletproof ones separately, so that the violation can be controlled. “The anti-sabotage checks are a routine affair, whereas a riot isn’t. So, an inspector should ensure that the riot gear comes out only when a riot-like situation is declared,” said an official.
“A soldier fully protected by a bulletproof combat gear feels far more confident psychologically in a terror firefight than one who isn’t. A soldier in a riot gear vest during such a fight will not be able to respond effectively since he knows that he will have to shield his body from bullets. It defeats the purpose of having a fully armed frontline fighting mechanism to take on terrorists, if they try a repeat of 26/11 at CST,” said an official.