How to help someone in train

Saket Gokhale's presence of mind and the efforts of Railway cops helped save a drunken woman from all we know she could have faced in the late-night hours travelling alone in a local train on January 10, 2012. The incident, which should be a learning for us all, highlights that while harmful elements exist in the city, there are still many who go out of their way to help others. It also puts light on that fact that Railway police is indeed helpful.

Helpline Numbers
Read on Saket's account of the story, so that you know what to do when you face a similar incident:

This happened just a few hours ago and did quite reinforce my faith in this city and the people that keep it running.

I dropped a couple of friends from the airport to Mumbai Central this evening and then decided to take the last train northwards. The Virar slow local train was just pulling in to platform 1. A woman (in her late 20s) dressed in a salwar kameez asked me 'Bhai, yeh train Goregaon jaaega?' (Will this train take me to Goregaon). I said yes, and instinctively felt something was wrong. I was just about to board the train and then realised this woman was too drunk to be able to walk. She narrowly missed falling down and somehow stumbled into the train.

It was the 2nd class general compartment and the train was relatively empty. She again asked a few people if the train would go to Goregaon and then passed out on the seats. In the beginning, I didn't think much of it until a few stations later a few drunken men got into the compartment and kept staring at her. The whole thing felt super odd and as Bandra approached, I was getting a bit worried about how this woman will get off at Goregaon (she was completely sloshed and has passed out). The one drunken guy sitting across the seat from her did not look like he was up to any good.


It seemed a sensible idea to call for help rather than confront a bunch of drunken chaps in a running train. So I rang up the police control room on 100 to ask for the number of the railway police. The constable promptly gave it to me and I rang up the GRP (Government Railway Police) control room.

I told the dispatcher who answered the phone that there was a drunken woman in the compartment and that she intended to alight at Goregaon station. I said that since she was drunk, it'd be good if some police personnel could help her out at the platform since she probably had no clue where to go. The dispatcher asked me where the train currently was and what compartment I was in. While I wasn't sure of the exact number, I could see that the 1st class was in front of us and the ladies compartment was right behind. I told him that. Also. the train had just pulled in to Andheri and I told him that Goregaon was 2 stops away so we should be there in about 5-7 minutes. He said he would alert the policemen on the station using the police wireless and asked me to look out for them.

As the train pulled into Goregaon, two police constables were standing right there. I waved at them and they came running into the compartment. When they asked the woman, she said she didn't wanna get off at Goregaon anymore and wanted to go back to Mumbai Central (wierd, since thats where she got into the train). She also started yelling loudly that 'someone stole my money and I have no money to go home'. They tried to talk her into getting off but she started passing out again. The cops looked at me and said they need to get her off the train but that could only be done by a female cop. The train started moving by now and the cops said they're putting out a message on the wireless asking for a lady cop to be on standby at Borivali station (2 stops away) in 5 minutes.

I called the control room again to inform them what happened and asked them for backup at Borivali. The dispatch said he'd ask a lady cop to be stationed at Borivali right where the compartment halts. In the meanwhile, the drunken guy had already started trying to get closer to her and touch her. With no other option in hands, I walked up to him and told him to sit in a corner or that I'd chop his balls off. It probably worked because he went all quiet and then just kept staring at her.

Just when everything seemed under control, the woman came running towards the door and was about to jump off a moving train, when me and another guy had to restrain her. She then started yelling at us and said she was gonna jump off because the train was taking too long to arrive and she'd missed her station. We told her to calm down and wait until the train pulled in to the station.

As soon as the train pulled in to Borivali, 7 cops came running towards our compartment. Two of them were lady constables. I pointed out the woman to them and they coaxed her into getting off the train and got her to relax. Meanwhile, I pointed out the drunken man who kept trying to touch her to the other constables and he was escorted off the train in a few seconds.

The police had already alerted the station master so the train stopped for a longer duration until the woman was safely with the lady constables and the drunken man was taken into custody. The policemen said thank you and the train was back on its way. As I type this, the woman is in a safe place with the cops who are making arrangements to have her dropped wherever she needs to go in Goregaon.

The point behind writing this note is that this woman tonight could've ended up as a newspaper headline tomorrow. Some newspaper would've written pages about women's safety, some activists would've lit candles and then she'd become just that...a story. All it took me was 2 phone calls (toll-free) and the police put in their best efforts to save a person.

I read numerous articles in the newspaper everyday that quote statistics about how many women feel unsafe in the city or how many crimes have happened over the last year. The newspapers hire some amazing research firms that tell them right to the second decimal about how bad things are (98.97% people feel this city is going to the dogs etc.).

However, I have always found those reports wanting when to comes to actually telling people what to do in similar situations.

So, tomorrow or ever, if you find a mentally unstable person in distress, a woman being harassed or something similar to what happened to me, here's what you do:

1. Dial 100. Thats the response number for the Mumbai Control Room. This connects you to the nearest wireless dispactcher who will note down your complaint, your exact location and will then dispatch a police team to the spot. In my experience, depending on traffic and the time of the day, it takes between 5-10mins for help to arrive. In case of very serious complaints, the control room will remain in touch with you until the police come.

If for instance, you're not in a position to remain at the spot, tell that to the dispatcher and ask him to update you about what action was taken. Me and a friend had once reported a woman being pushed  into a car by a man who then sped away. An officer called me 20 mins later saying they went in pursuit, intercepted the car and found that it was a marital tiff. The police nevertheless escorted the couple home and left only after the woman confirmed that she was ok.

2. In case you are unable to get through to 100, identify the area where you are and call your nearest control room. Their numbers are:
(a) South Mumbai control: 23089857, 23089855, 23070505 
(b) Central Mumbai control: 23710505, 23720505, 23712081, 24140909, 23750505 
(c) West Mumbai control: 26552195, 26412021, 26457900, 26572299
(d) East Mumbai control: 25233588, 25233534, 25222121
(e) North Mumbai control: 28850918, 28854643, 28877544

In Thane city, you can call Thane urban control 25443131 / 25443636. All areas from Mira Road upto Virar fall under Thane rural control who can be called on 25342784, 25395151

3. If you are in the train, call the Govt. Railway Police (GRP) on 9833331111 or 1275. 

Remember that help reaches faster when you can tell the address as accurately as possible. In case you can't and its a life-and-death emergency, the police have technologies that can trace the location of your call. Please make it a point to inform the dispatcher that you are unaware of your location so that he/she can find the best possible way of helping you.

I did nothing special today than what is expected of me as a citizen. But were it not for timely intervention by the cops, a life would've been lost.

I usually don't write notes on Facebook (this is the first one I have ever written). But a few weeks ago, I saw this one making the rounds: http://www.facebook.com/notes/azeem-banatwalla/mumbais-finest-at-their-very-best/10150463943108092. For whatever they heard, people were quick to comment saying things like 'fucking Bombay police' and 'cops are rascals'.

Well, here you are. First person account and all. Of course, it is very easy to sit in our drawing rooms and criticise and then hit 'like' on Facebook campaigns and whine about how the entire system is rotten.

Well guess what, just try... just try to extend your hand and help out. I can promise you from my personal experience that it works pretty fine.

And indeed, notwithstanding a few rotten apples (which exist everywhere btw), these men in uniform are still Mumbai's finest! Over and out.

5 comments:

Akshay Iyer said...

Hi Anuradha! It is really nice to read such an article. Reinforces my belief that there are good people who still exist in Mumbai. As Saket effectively says that it is indeed easy to sit in our drawing rooms and whine about how the entire system is rotten. Thanks a ton for sharing this note!!

Anuradha Khanna Pentapalli said...

Thanks Akshay!
@Lily - Haven't published your comment as requested. Pls find the Contact Tab above to get in touch with me.

Rohan Chari said...

I was standing on Govandi station, to board a train to CBD belapur at around 9:00pm. There were 5 to 6 big iron channels, on the platform I guess for some bridge related work on the station. I saw a man who threw a brifcase type box between those channels. I reported to the helpline number 22300400 about this. The lady over there told me to inform the railway police on the platform. I searched for them but they were not persent at the place they reguraly used to, infact those channel were just besides the ploicemen's seat. The lady then took my name and contact number.
When I returned back to Govandi station the next morning, to my surprise I found the same box at the same place as it was at last night. Fortunately, there was nothing dangerous in it. When I shared this experience with my friends, they all started commenting on police about their carelessness when such information is provide by a single person.

Anuradha Khanna Pentapalli said...

Thanks Rohan for sharing the incident. I am in the process on compiling such inefficiencies / ignorance on the part of authorities and report them to a newspaper. Hope that might help.

Rohan Chari said...

Thank You for your intrest in this matter.