On local trains, it’s graffiti grief for women

A woman journalist was in for a shock recently when she started receiving lewd calls from strangers. On enquiring, she found that someone had scribbled her phone number along with an obscene message in a local train compartment. She then lodged a police complaint.
While her complaint is pending with the cyber crime cell, the menace has been giving other women commuters a tough time. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has registered several cases of damaging or defacing railway property, of which five per cent are cases of obscene graffiti against women, officials say.

Such graffiti is usually seen in luggage compartments and second class ladies’ compartments that become general compartments after 11 pm.

Over the past five years, the RPF registered 766 offences on the Western Railway (WR) and 15,311 on Central Railway (CR). These include defacing trains, damaging banners or altering letters or figures in trains or on railway premises. However, the railway administration has failed to take serious action as it “does not have separate data on cases of obscene graffiti in local trains”.

Women commuters prefer not to approach police. WR commuter Neha Dutt said, “It would be better if the railway authorities frequently cleaned the train coaches and removed the obscene posters and graffiti.”

Before 2004, such cases were handled by Government Railway Police (GRP). Later, the RPF was empowered to deal with such cases under Indian Railways Act, 1989.

In April 2002, the then railway police commissioner Rakesh Maria formed three squads comprising 10 police personnel. Police had then nabbed two culprits red-handed.

On April 18, 2002, a 23-year-old final year engineering student and on April 25, 2002, another 20-year-old college student were caught while scribbling vulgar graffiti on the wall of second class ladies’ compartment. RPF authorities, however, said it was difficult to catch the offenders red-handed.

WR registers cases of defacing trains under section 166 A and 166 B of Indian Railways Act, regarding damage to railway property. The CR’s RPF, however, registers these cases as creating nuisance under sections 145 A, 145 B and 145 C of the Act. The minor penalty entails imprisonment for a month or a fine Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.

Alok Bohra, senior divisional security commissioner, CR said, “This is the work of perverted minds. Though the law takes care of such offenders, the permanent solution is that every member of the society must respect women.”