In a quest to ensure the safety of women on the Western Railways, the Railway Police Force (RPF), known as Mahila Vahini has started an initiative RPF Sakhi — a WhatsApp group which will work as a watchdog for women commuters. Apart from patrolling the compartments reserved for women on local trains and maintaining law and order, this group’s primary focus is to connect women commuters to keep an eye on crime.

Mahila Vahini has a strength of 90 women RPF officers and it was kickstarted in August 2015. The women patrolling officers are solely purposed to maintain law and order and attend to women commuter’s grievances with the railways, The Indian Express reported. The huge and positive demand from the commuters led RPF to initiate the WhatsApp group.

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“RPF Sakhi was started in February 2016. Woman RPF officers boarded trains and spread the word about the new initiative. It didn’t take long for commuters to respond positively,” said Inspector Gayatri Patel (35) who is the head of Mahila Vahini.

“We attend to a lot of problems on a regular basis ranging from petty issues like lost personal goods, seat-cornering, door-blocking, frivolous arguments and scuffles among passengers to more serious ones like dealing with hawkers, beggars and occasional cases of stone-pelting,” said Patel.

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“I travel every day for work from Navi Mumbai to Marine Lines via a connecting train from Dadar. Sometimes it gets really crowded and that’s when people get frustrated and fight over seats. In one instance, it really got ugly and women started abusing and beating up each other,” said 35-year-old commuter Deepika Ganghawane.

The team of women officers takes care of the daily problems women passengers face and their safety is the crucial point, according to Ravinder Bhaker, Chief Public Relations Officer, Western Railway. “They are the backbone of women’s security on the railways,” he added.

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But Patel’s team is understaffed. She added, “Staff shortage means increased workload on existing recruits, lack of ample rest and adequate holidays.”

She urged that more women officers are needed in the team, currently they are short-staffed 110 officers.

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Feature Image Credit: Indiatimes.com

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