RPF guards avoid masks, gloves, cry railway passengers



Complaints have reached senior railway authorities saying their personnel are not following norms while checking baggage and train commuters, making for a dangerous risk of super-spreading

While the COVID-19 vaccine may have arrived in the country, the dangers of the virus spreading are far from over. And, in a disturbing display of nonchalance by the authorities, railway passengers have complained that several security personnel deployed at Pune railway station are indulging in activities that could make this junction the next super-spreader — by eschewing the use of sanitisers, masks and gloves while checking baggage and passengers. Now, the plaint has also reached senior railway authorities, who claimed they will look into it.

Ever since the pandemic struck, the government has constantly been asking all the citizens to take basic precautionary measures such as using masks, gloves and sanitisers. To curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government also authorised various agencies to take action against those who fail to follow these health safeguards. But, people are pointing out that the security agencies authorised to take action are themselves not following the measures properly.

Recently, such complaints against the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel in Pune were raised, too. One such complainant, Ushapriya Hoskote, shared, “One of my relatives was travelling from Pune to Bengaluru last week. When he boarded the train, security personnel came and started checking his bag. But they were neither wearing masks nor using gloves. My relative immediately informed me and I raised the complaint with railway authorities. The dangers of the virus are far from over. We all still need to be careful. While packing my family member’s bag, I cautiously wrapped each and every item to reduce surface contamination risk by the virus. And yet, security guards themselves who checked the baggage were hardly bothered. They are checking several passengers and need to be all the more alert.”

Rail commuters also pointed out that when one of them fails to wear a mask, they are penalised — but security personnel get away with such acts scot-free. A passenger who recently travelled here from Uttar Pradesh, Sudhanshu Dubey, said, “Be it rich or poor, the virus has not spared anyone. At public places like railway stations, passengers and deployed security personnel are both capable of transmitting the virus. But we see that the compulsion of taking all precautions lies only with passengers. Personnel walk around without masks or handle baggage without gloves and don’t sanitise, free of any fear.”

Travellers pointed out that security personnel handle hundreds of bags every day and are at great risk of virus transmission themselves, besides spreading it to that many more people passing via Pune railway station; PIC: RAHUL DESHMUKH

Some passengers suggested that senior authorities deploy more vigilance at Pune station to ensure that at least their employees follow COVID-19 precautionary norms. “A railway junction is a highly vulnerable place during any pandemic. A small mistake can lead to the virus spreading amongst thousands of people. It is understandable that security personnel must perform duties but in such extraordinary situations, they should follow COVID norms religiously. Senior authorities should also constantly check on employees to keep other passengers safe from virus transmission,” said Vikas Singh, another passenger.

When contacted about this matter, RPF Pune divisional security commissioner Uday Singh Pawar said, “There are strict instructions for all personnel to follow all COVID-related norms. Our personnel are taking action against passengers not following the norms, so how can they themselves disobey orders? But if there are complaints, I will look into them and necessary steps will be taken to ensure that each and every personnel is strictly following all precautionary norms.”

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