By Debdoot Das and Meghna Ganguly
Kolkata, May 1 Men beware! The salwar-clad woman you may have fixed your roving eyes on in a Kolkata Metro train could turn out to be from the special task force of the police. One indiscrete move and you might be cooling your heels behind bars.
Kolkata Metro authorities raised the task force in January to protect women against harassment in the station premises as also over the 25.135 km distance traversed on the city’s busy north-south axis. The task force comprises for now only a dozen members — mostly women. Every day, at least 3-4 women officers are clad in civvies and the rest in uniform.
The women are confident, strong, and athletically-built. If not in uniform, you would definitely not think of her as a member of the police force. The special task force has been identifying and nabbing culprits found misbehaving with women. The members say recognising the wrongdoers is a “matter of experience.”
“People are now aware this task force is patrolling the Metro and so crimes have gone down,” said Head Constable Sunita Surin, a member of the team.
“We travel in salwars, kurtis and sarees just like any other passenger with no badge or gadgets,” Surin told IANS.
Earlier, chain-snatching and other forms of harassment were making life difficult for women passengers. It was then that senior Metro officials decided on deploying policewomen in civvies on the trains.
“After getting complaints from women passengers about their harassment and theft issues, the women task force was constituted in two days,” Metro Railway Deputy General Manager Protyush Ghosh told IANS.
This has come as a boon for women commuters, who now find an evident change in the behaviour of male passengers on the Metro. The task force not only looks for culprits but also warns passengers of dangers like standing in the vestibule and resting against the sliding doors.
“Metro is my daily mode of commuting. Previously it would be difficult to stand in a crowded compartment with men making it uncomfortable for us and trying to misbehave. But now they know the squad is travelling in plain clothes. The fear of being caught stops them from getting too close to us,” regular commuter Rimita Saha told IANS.
The task force keeps a hawk eye from the first morning train till the last night rake. Closed circuit (CCTV) cameras are installed at all stations and monitored from the control room in the nodal office to ensure security. Any hint of suspicion is immediately passed on to the squad for corrective action.
“We work in two shifts, each of six hours. The last Metro, however, carries other on-duty officials so that no crimes take place then,” Assistant Sub-Inspector Tapas Sarkar said.
They work in groups of 5-6. The squad takes the train from Park Street, Kavi Subhas or Dum Dum. Some members continue in the train while some get off at stations to observe suspicious behaviour.
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