The Allahabad High Court's recommendations to the railway board on passenger safety is perhaps the most comprehensive proposal on this critical matter so far.
The railways has started to implement one of these with regard to setting up a database of addresses of those buying season passes. The court felt this could help security agencies to track down those who might violate the rules during commute.
The court made the recommendations some time back, during the hearing of a suo morot petition on commuter safety. Among the others are the setting up of an all-India helpline number, permanent presence of at least two policemen in each coach, communication system between commuters and the guard, and random checks to weed out those making a nuisance.
All-India helpline number:
The court underlined that the helpline was "the need of the hour" and this should be operated on the pattern of the emergency 911 call service in the United States or 112 across the European Union. It wants that the call number be a maximum of three digits and has asked the railway board to ensure that the Rs25 crore necessary to get the number operational is arranged quickly.
Currently, most zonal railways have their own helpline numbers. But each has its own shortcomings, like some are not accessible from certain service providers.
The plan for an all-India helpline service was to be tried on a pilot basis at posts of the Railway Police Force in Mumbai, but it has not started yet.
Armed cops, trained staff, mikes for communication:
The Allahabad High Court stated that at least two seats in each coach should be allotted for railway police or RPF personnel so passengers know where to rush to inform the cops in case of an untoward incident.
An advancement on this would be the installation of a mike fitted at the level of the alarm chain along with an audio system so passengers can communicate directly with the guard. The guard in turn should be able to inform the police escorts on their wireless sets quickly.
The court has said that other railway employees on the train, like ticket examiners, coach attendants, catering staff, should also be trained to be part of the response by the railway police or RPF. It has recommended that the security personnel be armed with short range weapons, instead of the obsolete 303 rifles.
Act against those invading reserved coaches:
Citing rule 242.1 (iv) which specifically states that season tickets are not valid for travel in reserved coaches, the court asked the railways to refer to certain sections of the Railways Act, to ensure that passenger safety inside trains is at its best.
The rules include section 145 on punishment for drunkenness or creating a nuisance, Section 147 punishes trespass or refusal to vacate, while section 155 makes illegal entry into a reserved compartment punishable and section 162 makes illegal entry into a ladies coach punishable.
The court recommended that both the railway police and RPF conduct random checks in reserved coaches to root out the problem.