Indian Railways is likely to disable the chain pulling system on trains headed to some areas of Bihar, to prevent smuggling of liquor during the upcoming national elections, two officials familiar with the matter said.The chain pulling system is meant for halting trains in emergency situations, and sometimes misused for forcing unscheduled stops .
The national polls in Bihar, which has been a dry state since 2016 and has the most Lok Sabha seats (40) after Uttar Pradesh (80), Maharashtra (48) and West Bengal (42), would be held in seven phases from April 11. Serving or distributing liquor on election day and during the 48 hours preceding it is an electoral offence. Violation of the liquor ban in Bihar can also lead up to five years in prison.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) director general Arun Kumar said that the RPF noticed a trend in Bihar wherein smugglers would pull the chains and then alight from trains carrying liquor at the places of their choice. Liquor is used as an inducement to voters in many parts of India at election time.
“Since Bihar is a dry state, the move to disable chain pulling was proposed. Now with [the poll-related] restrictions in place, we are again thinking of disabling the device,” Kumar said, without specifying the trains on which the system would be disabled.
Kumar said RPF guards will be on board the trains and in cases of emergency, passengers can contact the personnel.
As many as 31 cases of liquor smuggling involving chain pulling were reported last week, according to RPF officials. Most of these cases have been reported from Nagpur in Maharashtra and parts of Bihar, including Chapra and Patna.
“We had a meeting with the Election Commission (EC) and have issued directions to zonal heads to [also] monitor movement of cash, drug, arms and liquor. Since there is no concept of 100% frisking in the railways, we rely on intelligence and profiling and have already made substantial seizures,” said Kumar without elaborating on the nature of the seizures .
Though, recently only two seizures have been made in trains going through Bihar, officials said that they are going by past experience.
Last week, the RPF seized around ₹17 lakh from two places in Bihar and one in Andhra Pradesh.
Another RPF official said the EC had increased vigil to ensure that private helicopters do not carry liquor and other items meant to influence voters. “So trains will automatically become a preferred mode for smuggling,’’ he said on condition of anonymity.
The official added that they are prepared and have been questioning people carrying cash or gold.
“If passengers are unable to explain reasons for carrying cash or gold, they are detained and local electoral officers are informed,” said the RPF official.
Apart from trains, private airstrips, unserved airports where no flight operates and helipads have also been put under close watch to check the flow of unauthorised arms, cash and gold, and other contraband in the run-up to the polls, according to a civil aviation ministry official.
The Bureau for Civil Aviation Security issued a circular last Friday instructing concerned authorities across the country to check unscheduled flights.
State police chiefs have been asked to deploy police personnel to check private flights as long as the model code of conduct is in place for the national polls that will conclude on May 19.
Mar 23, 2021 08:28 IST