Saturday, October 29, 2016
A Journey from Ahmedabad to Surat to Pune and return journey from Pune to Mumbai to Surat to Ahmedabad that turned into a living nightmare.
I'm Ahmedabad based Documentary Filmmaker and I was traveling through Indian Railway on a filmmaking work project.
When I reached to Surat @Railway Station through 19060 Surat Intercity. My train reached on platform 4. I got down last from my coach C1 seat 35 as I had my camera, laptop bag, suitcase and tripod. As I was being guided by my maternal uncle who had come to pick me up, I asked someone about the subway. Within less then twenty steps someone opened my laptop bag chain and stole my wallet purse with cash amount of Rs 17000, valid identity proof driving license and Voter's ID. And the nightmare begins.
I rushed to my uncle and broke down while narrating what had just happened. My uncle talked to the TC checking tickets of exiting passengers where to approach for the complain. They told us to go to RPF and ask them for CCTV footage.
While we reached @RPF, they immediately asked us to go to the @police station outside Surat Railway Station platform 1. Surat Railway Station police begins their questioning.
On the way to Police Station, my uncle warned me that the police will do nothing about it. But by then I was hysterical and had decided to report the incident whatever may happen.
At police station a lady constable told me rudely that why all the people coming here has to cry, what is there to cry about. Yes Ma'am, when my 17000 cash is stolen I should be laughing and cracking a joke about it. Oh Wow! How wonderful my purse with big amount of cash is stolen. Yay! I want to ask the lady constable, if similar incident would have happened with her or her family members what would be her reaction?
After that the police made us sit for a long time. Thankfully my uncle was with me else going from one station to another with bags would have probably killed me in the process.
When i narrated the incident to on duty police officer be asked me was I really carrying the purse and did it actually happened on the platform that somebody opened my laptop bag chain and I didn't realize it. I wonder sometimes are this people sitting on the chair from our own planet or from different planet. Anybody carrying so much of weight would not be able to realize what an expert criminal is upto if this same police fails to nab them but they expect a single woman passenger to stop the thief from stealing the valuables. How very intelligent of the on duty police officer.
After we repeatedly asked them to show us the CCTV footage they obliged. It is amazing to note that there are 12 CCTV cameras outside the Surat Railway police station but only 2 on platform 4. Of which only 1 was working. We rush back to different location for checking the CCTV footage. In footage it clearly shows me coming out from the coach my laptop bag chain fast secured. Then I headed to wrong direction where I asked someone who guided me to subway. While I took those 20 worst steps of my life struggling with my luggage someone stole my wallet purse from my laptop bag on my back.
This going from RPF to police station and checking CCTV footage took about 1 hour. Enough time for the thief to get away with it. We head back to the police station where we were asked to wait till 5 pm till the senior police officer arrives. We waited for 3 full hours for filing FIR. This too happened because we called officers higher up. I wonder about common person! The senior police officer and another officer asked me, was I really carrying the wallet pursue. As if to deter me to file complaint. The people coming in and out of the police station looks like everyone is involved in this racket of thefts on the Railway Station. The senior officer told me that they have a database of 8000 theives in surat. What am I supposed to do with that information? Aren't you paid by government from the taxes we pay. Isn't it your bounded duty to protect me from thieves?
After all this, I still stood my ground to file FIR. After they received calls from high up, they finally moved and someone started taking my complaint. After 3 hours at police station they just gave me complaint copy and not FIR.
While we were at the station, there were two men who wanted to complain about stolen Mobile phone. The police was deterring them as well to file a complaint. I wonder do they get paid to protect us or thieves? Or do they get paid by theives? It is amazing to note that they can never catch theives.
All the rules are for passengers and not for theives? TC check for tickets and ID proof from passengers. But those vagrant people roaming aimlessly are not stopped from entering the railway station. How efficient of RPF and Indian Railways!
As I proceeded for my filmmaking journey after this ordeal. Reached Pune uneventful. But when I started from Pune Railway Station to Mumbai in 12124 Deccan Queen the TC asked for id proof. I explained to him that my wallet and 2 ID proofs were stolen I had e ID which he would not accept. He started shouting on me a woman passenger traveling alone. That didn't I have sense not to travel without valid id. But Sir, I was carrying valid id when your department failed to keep my belongings safe. Still, I requested him to talk to my husband when he shouted and told me why should he talk to anyone and I have to pay the fine. Thankfully, I didn't listen to my uncle when I insisted on filing the complaint that they will do nothing about it. But at least I had a proof that my purse was stolen. I requested him to look at the printout of complaint. He looked and told me it is a complaint not FIR for which I explained that I have digital copy of FIR as they made me wait for 3 hours just for the complaint. Then he again started shouting that I have to pay the fine and that the complaint is in Gujarati language. The digital copy of FIR was too in Gujarati language. Now is that my fault that in whichever state the theft has happened they note it in local language? TC makes us citizens with legal tickets follow all rules but are so casual in their approach about vagrant people.
I requested him to come after 10 minutes. He threatened me again to get down or pay the fine. I called my husband and he asked me to tweet about the matter. Both of us started tweeting about the incident.
When one is already booked for work journey how can one go back to get ID CARD. And if both the IDs are stolen even if the traveler goes back it takes quite a while to get new IDs issued. The Indian Railways, RPF and police failed to perform their duties and a woman passenger is humiliated for their failure. But even if any passenger had forgotten physical ID, does it make the passenger criminal? To be treated so cruelly?
The same TC illegally allots seat and earns out of it. So, are we at whims and fancys of corrupt officials?
While he was shouting on me, a lady from next compartment came panicked to report of stolen bag. The approach of TC was so casual, let's give her an FIR she will feel satisfied about it. Yes, really? Do we want to feel satisfied that Railway is taking complaint for theft? They too it seems are paid by theives. They are least bothered about our safety and security. Because of my tweets, RPF came to ask me about what had happened with TC. They didn't identify themselves but I calmly narrated the whole ordeal again by then the TC had arrived too. He looked at me and said, I let you sit so why the complaint and why don't I delete the tweets. Why should I? On their own, the police decided that the matter had solved because I was allowed to sit. But what about the trauma and humiliation and loss of my valuables that I suffered. Nobody is bothered about that.
I went to Mumbai Central railway station and went up to request station manager to help me. He was not present. Do this people file for leaves when they are not present or they can claim they were traveling on duty? Police is not present, station manager is not present. What do they do if something major happens at the railway station? Anyways, Deputy Station Manager Sir at Mumbai Central Railway Station told me it is my lookout what I do and I should have not traveled without a valid id. I still thanked him and left as if it was my fault. Welcome to the world of Woman passenger traveling alone!
This experience has been so traumatic that I can't sleep, I can't access washroom, in the train and railway station, in the fear that they will rob me again.
While waiting for my train from Mumbai to Surat, I realized that the police, RPF and Indian Railways all should be involved in the racket, this cannot be handy work of petty criminals. The vagrant people are in abundance on the railway station, although the RPF is right there they don't take any action against them. They take advantage of people who have more luggage and get away with their thefts. How else can the police not catch thieves when such incidences are in a large number every day. Besides, if they can't catch the criminals, and fail to provide security they are probably in the wrong profession!
Anyways, when i returned to surat my uncle informed me that a woman was brutally attacked at Surat Railway Station! While there was another chain snatching incident at surat railway station. So much for the safety and security of woman.
When I shared the incident online one of my senior friend shared that when he complained about his missing bag to TC during one of his travel he was severely ridiculed. I wonder what would you do if this happens with you? It is interesting to note that all this thefts happen only in AC coachs! What do you have to say about this @sureshpprabhu? Or do we only talk about cleanliness related soft issues?
This episode has affected my ability to perform. There can be no compensation for the trauma and humiliation.
What's the use of installing all the CCTVs when there is no intention of catching the theives? Why harass innocent passengers? Why not stop vagrants from entering the Railway Station? Although, the RPF is right there on the station cosy in their chairs while we common people can point out unusual suspicious people, why don't they do their duties?
Shouldn't all the parties involved be made answerable to people. Am I safe in my own country in the train or on the railway station?