Indian Railways is raising an all-women patrol squad that will guard running trains, ensure women’s safety at busy stations and assist women and children on railway premises, seeking to triple the number of female personnel in the Railway Protection Force (RPF).
Indian Railways plans to add 4,500 more women to the RPF’s strength by next year, almost half the total number of new hires.
At the level of sub-inspector, RPF has 1,111 vacancies, 300 of which will reserved for women, said Ved Prakash, spokesperson for Railways.At the constable level, it has advertised for 7,989 vacancies ,4,200 of which will be reserved for women, he added.
Women make up less than 5% of the RPF’s staff strength. Once the hiring process is completed, the number of women personnel will exceed 7,000, up from 2,600 now.
“Once the selection process is done, the women will be subjected to nine months’ rigorous training. They will be trained for escort duty in trains and most of them will be posted in the ladies’ coaches of suburban trains in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The presence of women in uniform inside coaches will make women travellers feel safe,” said an RPF spokesperson.
“Some of the women personnel who are deployed on active duty have been doing commendable work and received various awards also. They have helped women in distress. Railways is also used by human traffickers and these personnel will be responsible for identifying vulnerable children and women,” the RPF spokesperson added.
According to data tabled in Parliament last year, 553 cases of crime against women passengers such as molestation and harassment were registered in 2015, increasing to 606 in 2016.
“To deal with women in distress, sensitive staff needs to be posted. And since most of the trafficking victims are women, a woman constable will give them more confidence in narrating the trauma. The presence of women staff will give the women passengers a sense of safety,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an NGO that works with the Railways to curb crimes against women.