Rail cops get help on deadly tracks

Railway tracks have become death traps and a rise in fatalities has alarmed the railway police.

With an average of three people being hit by trains in Chennai every day, and being too short-staffed to man all the lines in the city, the government railway police (GRP) have roped in volunteers from NGOs in an attempt to curb fatal track accidents.

More than 100 volunteers including a radio jockey, a law student, doctors and businessmen will visit neighbourhoods and slums along railway lines to ask residents not to cross railway lines or, if they have no choice, inform them about the precautions they need to take while doing so.

“We have roped in volunteers from NGOs because they can reach out to people and educate them about the risks,” said GRP inspector-general R Arumugam. “Our men have carried out campaigns in the past but people are more receptive to representatives of social service organisations.”

The volunteers have signed up with the railway police under Madras Station Vigilance Committee, a programme to spread awareness on train accidents and crime. Such groups are being set up at major stations across the state.

In around 70% of fatal train accidents, the victims were using the tracks as toilets. Close to 25% were speaking on their cellphones and did not notice the train approach, Arumugam said. Suicides accounted for a relatively smaller number of deaths.

While a majority of the victims were hit by long distance trains, more than 120 people died on the tracks on the suburban routes of Central-Beach-Tiruvallur and the Central-Beach-Gummidipoondi line last year. Sixteen people have died on suburban lines so far this year.

The GRP also want the volunteers to monitor miscreants who loiter around railway tracks and report any suspicious activity. Madras Station Vigilance Committee secretary V Arumugam said the volunteers will also help out with crowd control at stations, prevent people from crossing the tracks or causing damage to the passengers or tracks.

“The volunteers will work alongside GRP men,” he said. The committee members will distribute pamphlets to passengers about crime on trains like chain-snatching and help regulate traffic outside railway stations.