Patna, July 10: Travelling by trains is not a safe proposition for women, but railways are not bothered. At least not the railway minister.
Sample this: a deputy inspector-general of Railway Protection Force (RPF) allegedly tried to molest the wife of an IPS officer while she was travelling in Patna-bound Sampoorn Kranti Express on the intervening night of July 8 and 9 in presence of her sister, an IAS officer.
The victim lodged a complaint in Patna and the media highlighted the matter. But a few hours on, railway minister Lalu Prasad gave a clean chit to the errant official.
However, late in the evening, a two-member team has been formed to inquire into the matter.
If the kin of bureaucrats confronts such a situation, one can easily gauge the plight of ordinary women travelling on trains. The victim, wife of a Punjab-cadre IPS officer, had boarded the AC-I compartment of Sampoorn Kranti Express (2394) at Delhi last Sunday evening with her IAS officer sister for going to Patna. The accused, DIG P.J. Rawal, posted in Delhi, also boarded the same train for coming to Patna on a one-day official trip. The trio shared a cabin, which had a vacant berth.
The wife of the Punjab-cadre IPS officer and the lady IAS officer, posted with the home department here, talked for a while with the DIG after formal introduction. Around 10.30pm, the victim and her sister had their dinner and retired to their respective berths. DIG Rawal remained awake.
When the train was crossing Allahabad around midnight, Rawal allegedly returned to his berth “drunk” and pretended to fall over the victim, sleeping on a lower berth, in an alleged attempt to “molest” her.
The victim woke up and raised an alarm. The sisters slapped the “errant” DIG and snatched his mobile phone and identity card.
When fellow passengers of the victim and coach attendants rushed to the scene, DIG Rawal apologised to the sisters. While the duo returned the DIG his cellphone at fellow-passengers’ request, the lady IAS officer kept the I-card of the “errant” officer with her.
The DIG shifted to an AC two-tier compartment to escape further humiliation at the hands of the doughty lady IAS officer.
The victim, who introduced herself as a resident of Shivpuri, Patna, registered her grievance in the railways' compliant book.
Bhagwan Das, a train ticket examiner of Kanpur railway division, who was on duty on Sampoorn Kranti Express when the unfortunate incident took place, confirmed such a case took place. Das said: “A woman had lodged her complaint alleging a DIG had misbehaved with her.”
The home secretary, Afzal Amanullah, also confirmed that an IAS officer's sister was subjected to misbehaviour during a train journey.
The formal case, however, was registered with Patna railway police today after the lady IAS officer discussed the matter with Amanullah and other senior bureaucrats yesterday.
Patna railway station in-charge Alok Kumar Singh told The Telegraph: "As the incident took place near Mughalsarai, we have registered a zero FIR and will forward it to Mughalsarai railway police for appropriate action.”
An unfazed Union railway minister Lalu Prasad, however, told the media: “It is none of my business to know who is doing what (on a train)". But when quizzed more on the matter, the railway minister said: “RPF director-general M.K. Sinha has already looked into the matter and did not find anything serious.”
Lambasting the media for “sensationalising” the incident, Prasad said an investigation would be conducted after the aggrieved woman lodged a complaint.
“It is just a case, not a matter of Bihar government or the Union government,” said the minister brandishing his hands in air with his usual swagger even as JD(U) state president Lallan Singh said: “Laluji giving a clean chit to his official within hours only shows his method of shoddy and high-handed functioning.”
While the victim and her sibling refused to speak to the media throughout the day, an embarrassed Rawal yesterday took shelter in a VIP room at Patna Junction. Rawal opened half of the door to tell media: “I have nothing to say.”
He has reportedly left for Hajipur today to attend a meeting.