Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Venkatesan Parthasarathy | Express News Service | Published: 25th October 2016 

CHENNAI: On the night of October 21, at 9.10 pm, 45-year old Mahalakshmi, travelling in the ladies compartment of the Tirumalpur-bound Fast EMU, thought she was heading back to her residence in Guduvanchery. But as things turned out, she would instead spend the next two days at a hospital getting treatment following a freak incident.

For, just when the train was between Guindy and Pazhavanthangal, a stone was thrown by an unidentified person from the ground. Taking a direct hit, Mahalakshmi was initially given first aid at Tambaram station but was subsequently shifted to a private hospital nearby.

According to the railway police, the latest incident is not an isolated instance of a drunkard hurling a random missile at the passing train. “Stone-pelting incidents at trains are on the rise, threatening the safety of passengers as well as that of the loco pilot,” a senior Railway Protection Force (RPF) officer told Express. Indeed, as per records maintained by the RPF, the number of such incidents has increased from 46 in 2015 to more than 50 until now this year, within the Chennai railway division. “The number which is reflected is only of those cases that have been reported by the loco pilot, the guard or RPF personnel on patrolling duty,” said the officer, adding there are several cases which go unnoticed. 

Based on past incidents, the RPF has identified a few prone stretches, especially near Chetpet as well as Saidapet station limits. However, their attention is drawn more towards the worsening situation in Meenambakkam and Tirusulam, where school children studying nearby have taken up this activity. 
Speaking to Express, K K Ashraf, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, said “It is generally difficult to trace the culprits as they run away from the scene. We then request the help of local police to share knowledge of the miscreants.”

Expressing deep concern over school children resorting to stone pelting, he said they commonly do it around 5-8 pm, which is their play time. “We pick them up, but they are soon let free after we inform their parents. We are trying to increase awareness among them about the possible dangers associated with stone-pelting,” says Ashraf.

For the locomotive pilot operating the train, at average speed of 80 kmph, a sudden incident of any object being thrown is a significant safety hazard. 

An office bearer of the All India Loco Running Staff Association said, “The miscreants may commit such things without comprehending its consequence. But, it is a huge distraction for the loco pilots who are totally concentrated on their job.” He suggested that the railways introduce shatter-proof glasses in loco cabins to avoid such potentially grave dangers in the future.


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