With a focus on women safety, the Indian Railways has spread the ‘Meri Saheli’ initiative in all its zones, Parliament was told on Wednesday.
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said that the initiative, aimed to provide safety and security to woman passengers for their entire journey, was launched as a pilot project by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) across the South Eastern Railway in trains originating there.
“Considering its success in instilling a sense of security among women passengers, this initiative has been rolled over to all zonal railways across Indian Railways’ network from October 17 last year,” he said.
Dedicated teams of women RPF personnel have been formed across all zonal railways for its implementation, he said.
Noting that Section 58 of the Railways Act, 1989 provides for earmarking of accommodation for female passengers in trains, he said there is a reservation quota of six berths in the sleeper class in long distance Mail or Express trains, a reservation quota of six berths in 3AC class of Garib Rath or Rajdhani or Duronto or fully air-conditioned Express trains for female passengers, irrespective of their age, travelling alone or in a group of female passengers.
He also said that there is a combined reservation quota of six to seven lower berths per coach in the sleeper class, four to five lower berths per coach each in the Air Conditioned 3 tier (3AC) and three to four lower berths per coach in the Air Conditioned 2 tier (2AC) classes (depending on the number of coaches of that class in the train) for senior citizens, female passengers 45 years of age and above and pregnant women.
The Minister also said that there is second class accommodation for women in the second class-cum-luggage-cum-guard’s Coach (SLR) in most of the long distance Mail or Express trains. Exclusive unreserved coaches or compartments for female passengers are there in EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit)/DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit)/MMTS(Multi Modal Transport System) trains and local passenger trains, depending upon demand pattern as well as availability.
He said that the deployment of RPF guard including women RPF personnel in women’s coaches is decided based on the vulnerability of the train or section concerned, timing, location, threat perception of the hinterland, analysis of past crime data among others and hence it “keeps changing from time to time”.
However, women special trains running in metropolitan cities are being escorted by women RPF personnel, he said.
“Presently, 14 ladies special trains are operational over Western and Central Railway serving the Mumbai area. These are being supplemented by 20 trains having partial earmarking of three coaches in the trains which are in addition to the regular earmarking of three coaches or four coaches in 12 car or 15 car trains.
“Over Southern Railway, serving Chennai area, 21 services have earmarking of 6.5 coaches or 5.5 coaches in 12 Car or 9 Car trains. Besides, introduction of additional trains, including Ladies special trains, and augmentation of trains, is an on-going process on Indian Railways,” Goyal added.