Swathes of people hustling about; a million resonating sounds in the air.
step overwalk past one another; enter.. if you DARE!
Greeting the public with its warmth and affection, the New Delhi Railway Station has always been a place of much veneration. Hordes of people come and go in numbers resembling any pilgrimage. The current security measures in place seem to belittle these congregations as flocks of sheep—queuing in line, awaiting their culling, and in their graves, the epitaphs would read: “KIA” (Killed by In-Action). Nothing to worry about though, the Defence Ministry would say; for ours is a religious society, and none would dare defile any sacred institute in this spiritual land of trains and passengers. Thus, they say, it is befitting of lax security guards to place their confidence in these disciples that roam around, aloof of the safety measures (not) in place.
A recent safety audit found many loopholes in the security arrangements at New Delhi Railway Station, such as outdated baggage scanners, defunct fire extinguishers, misplaced CCTV cameras and limited availability of sniffer dogs.
When questioned why the Railway Police Force (RPF) was so technologically primitive, especially when it came to the antiquated baggage scanners in place which were unable to screen even basic firearms and explosives, a senior RPF official pushed the blame on the local staff officers: “Unless the metal detectors go beep-beep every second, our officers go to sleep. Retrograde metal detectors act as a fool-proof mechanism to keep our officials on their heels. As for fire extinguishers, since none of my staff know how to operate one anyway, we decided it was in our best interests to leave the tanks empty and pocket in the funds leased for re-fueling the tanks.”
When asked why some of the CCTV cameras were found facing the ceiling and what purpose they served in that position, the official retorted, “You don’t watch too many Rajinikanth movies, do you! At any time terrorists can come flying down from the skies and breach our roof; we want to remain prepared for all situations! Now don’t ask me any more questions. I have lots of work to do. Only yesterday I caught touts selling tatkaal tickets in black. How dare they sell them without my permission!” he was visibly agitated as he left the scene.
Our reporters then managed to get hold of the incumbent Railway Minister, Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal. He was questioned over the populist budget he is expected to present on February 26, on how the Indian Railways is expected to cope with increasing costs, shortage of staff, archaic machinery and the security in railway stations like the New Delhi Station.
“You see, a populist budget means I announce more schemes for the public, which translates to more votes from the public. It does not, however, mean that I will implement those schemes. It is simply Politics-101. I don’t know why there is so much debate over safety either. Any accident as a result of over-worked staff can be easily blamed on the Maoists. That way, we have a reason of displacing them from their lands as well as a reason for replacing the damaged bogeys. As for the New Delhi station, I will start a fast-track train to fare between New Delhi and Chandigarh, my political constituency,” grinned a beaming Mr. Bansal.
When reminded that the prime issue related to the New Delhi Railway Station was, in fact, safety from a terror attack, which could easily follow on the lines of the unfortunate Mumbai terror attacks, a shocked Mr. Bansal replied, “That is the prime issue, rreeeaaallyyy?? I thought we tortured the general public enough with our taxes, corrupt practices and soaring inflation rates. Why would terrorists attempt to attack the cattle-class, for mercy? Safety concerns, I couldn’t care less.”