The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gentleman' Can’t be a bomber

Mumbai, July 18: Recognising terrorists is easy ' it’s written on their faces. So believe railway police in Mumbai.

“One look at their faces and you know they are up to some trouble,” inspector K.L. Kardel sounded confident at the railway control room at Churchgate.

His method is based on a dose of common sense, too. “People who dress like hooligans will not board the first-class compartment. If a person is dressed poorly but is caught carrying a lot of cash during frisking, we become suspicious.

“It’s easy to spot people like that. Gentlemen won’t do things like that. We only check people whom we suspect,” he said.

That might explain why those who planted the bombs on July 11 escaped unnoticed. The investigators have gone on record that the terrorists were, in all likelihood, dressed smartly so they wouldn’t stand out among the stockbrokers and businessmen who usually travel first class.

As they employ their mind-reading skills, railway police have taken other safety measures, too, installing metal detectors and CCTVs and posting dog squads at stations. There is, however, a problem of numbers, railway officials admitted.

“There are so many commuters that it is impossible to check on each and every one of them,” confessed Western Railway’s chief public relations officer, Prainai Prabhakar. Here’s where the mind-reading helps.

“We frisk when we see doubtful characters loitering. We can identify troublemakers easily. Frankly, it’s up to the Government Railway Police and the Railway Police Force to do the needful.”

Commuter Pamela Guha isn’t ready to buy the claims. “I travel by train every day, but even after the blasts I haven’t seen anyone being frisked,” the advertisement executive from Goregaon said. “Frankly, we passengers laugh at them (policemen). I’ve heard people saying the police are here just to waste their time.”

Three to four railway police personnel have been posted on platforms across the city. “These people will be on the platforms for a few days and then disappear,” laughed Zarina, a housewife from Bandra, pointing at the GRP men.

She may have a point. Just a few days ago, Western Railway general manager Rajkamal Rao was unable to say at a news conference if the additional police deployment at stations was a permanent arrangement or not.

The railway ministry has sanctioned a pending proposal for 47 closed-circuit TV cameras. Metal detectors have also been brought in, but Rao’s promise of 40 at every station sounds a rather tall order.

For now, face-reading may be the best hope.

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