This sniffer dog on R-Day duty is staying back with five others to boost the drive. (Amit Datta)
A special task force against harassment of women commuting by the Metro has caught 48 offenders in just over a week, proving that Calcutta’s most reliable transport system is no longer the safest for female passengers.
The 62-member task force, headed by a lady officer of the rank of assistant sub-inspector, was set up after complaints about molestation and teasing started piling up at Metro Rail Bhavan.
Between January 18 and 23, the team of 50 male constables and 12 women from the Railway Protection Force patrolled the stations for four hours daily.
“Since Thursday, they have been keeping vigil for 10 hours. Some of the personnel are in plainclothes,” said Protyush Ghosh, the deputy general manager (general) of Metro Railway.
Six sniffer dogs requisitioned to patrol the stations as part of the pre-Republic Day drill will remain with the task force till March 31. “We have received permission to keep the dogs till March 31 and they will be of help in catching any offender trying to flee. The sight of the dogs might also be a deterrent to any kind of misconduct,” the official said.
But the RPF does not have permission to prosecute an offender for molestation or teasing. It must hand him over to the police.
Metro officials say the sheer number of people availing themselves of the Metro makes surveillance difficult. “The rakes weren’t so overcrowded until a couple of years ago. We have asked for more personnel to cope with the crowd crush,” Ghosh said.
Metro Railway ferries around 6.5 lakh people on weekdays, an increase of over 1.4 lakh in less than a year.
During the morning and evening peak hours, the trains are so packed that the doors refuse to close. The average passenger load of a train is a little more than 2,400 but the average peak-hour figure exceeds 3,800.
“The peak load at Kavi Subhash station has crossed 4,000 since the new passenger interface was opened to connect the Metro with Eastern Railway,” an official said.