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Railway Protection Force (RPF)


A constable of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) allegedly shot and killed four people on board the Mumbai-bound 12956 Jaipur-Mumbai Superfast Express. Later, the accused was arrested by Government Railway Police (GRP).


GS II: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Railway Protection Force (RPF)
  2. Government Railway Police (GRP)
  3. Challenges in the Current System

Railway Protection Force (RPF)

  • The RPF is an armed force under the control of the Union Ministry of Railways.
  • Its primary role is to protect railway property, passenger areas, and ensure the safety of passengers.
  • It was established through The Railway Protection Force Act, 1957, with subsequent amendments in 1985.
Function and Area of Operation
  • The force consists of over 74,000 personnel, distributed across the country.
  • Its area of operation covers the extensive railway network of more than 63,000 kilometers.
  • With millions of passengers and tons of freight transported daily, RPF plays a crucial role in securing this vital transportation system.
Origin and Reasons for Creation
  • The RPF’s origins can be traced back to the ‘Watch and Ward’ system of private railway companies during British rule.
  • In 1954, a committee recommended reorganizing the ‘Watch and Ward’ into a statutory body, leading to the formation of the RPF.
  • The force was created to address security issues faced by railway passengers, including concerns about personal safety and property theft during rail journeys.
  • Additionally, the fear of terrorist activities, such as attacks on tracks and trains, further highlighted the need for a specialized railway security force.
  • Law and order problems like unscheduled stoppages, delays due to demonstrations, and protests also contributed to the decision to create the RPF.

Government Railway Police (GRP)

  • The GRP operates under the district police force and is accountable to the state government.
  • It works in collaboration with the RPF and ideally complements and strengthens its operations.
  • The primary responsibility of the Government Railway Police is the prevention and detection of crime on railways.
  • However, they are not tasked with protecting railway property. This duty falls under the jurisdiction of the Railway Protection Force (RPF).
  • GRP’s functions include maintaining order at railway stations and in trains, especially those halted at stations.
  • They ensure prevention of overcrowding in carriages and handle the arrest of individuals involved in creating nuisance or disturbances.
  • Additionally, the GRP can assist in track patrolling and conduct effective investigations in cases of sabotage related to railway operations.

Challenges in the Current System

  • Over the years, the role of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has evolved, but its primary responsibility for maintaining law and order remained with the State Government. This division of responsibilities between the State Police and RPF has led to certain challenges.
  • The Government Railway Police (GRP) is organized on provincial lines, resulting in a lack of continuity of jurisdiction. For example, a journey of about 70 kilometers from Ambala to Kalka involves the oversight of four different GRP units, causing inefficiencies.
  • The boundaries of States create a fragmented line of control and a lack of a single chain of command, as each State has its own Police Force. This can lead to coordination issues and gaps in security.
  • The presence of multiple security agencies on the railway, including the RPF, GRP, and District Police, can confuse people. They may not know whom to report to in case of a crime on the railway, leading to delays in response and investigation.

Source: Indian Express

February 2024