The surprise arrest of a porter by Railway Protection Force (RPF) on December 23, in connection with the theft of 11 parcels from railway custody in November 2018, appears to have happened under pressure from the highest level.
Divisional railway sources privy to the development revealed to DT Next that the RPF had swung into action after the Railway Section Officer (RSO) attached to CBI had expressed displeasure over RPF’s handling of what was described as an open and shut case. A RPF source confirmed that the security agency came under fire during a joint meeting of vigilance watchdogs here last month for going easy on a theft case allegedly involving a few members of an influential trade union.
Another railway officer, who did not wish to be named, conceded that the way the two-year-old case was handled raised eyebrows even at Rail Bhawan in Delhi and the divisional RPF officials had acted to save face. Pertinently, the murky state of affairs at the parcel offices in Chennai Central and Egmore terminals continued to draw the attention of the railway vigilance sleuths, thanks to ‘confrontation’ between parcel agents, who had allegiance to the union.
A commercial department source disclosed that there were violent exchanges between parcel agents on at least three different instances at Central station since the beginning of the lockdown in March.
Attributing the questionable state of affairs to agents exploiting the paucity of loading hands at terminals, the source said the six commercial staff allegedly involved in the theft case have gone missing since the arrest of the porter. A couple of them had left leave letters and disappeared in the middle of duty as soon as they learnt about the porter’s arrest, the source said, before adding that the clerks were planning to move anticipatory bail plea on Monday.
A tightlipped railway vigilance officer, who refused to comment on the RSO influence on RPF, admitted that they have been conducting more checks at parcel offices at Chennai Central and Egmore during the last two years.
When asked, a spokesperson of Souther Railway said the authorities want the two-year-old case to reach a logical conclusion at the earliest. An accused has been arrested and the investigation is on. It is being monitored by officers at the highest level too, the spokesperson added, denying that the action was motivated by criticism of the RSO and pressure from other agencies.
The case was initially tried under the Railways Act. Now, it is being tried under the Railway Properties (unlawful possession) Act. Initially, it was probed at the division level. Now, it is being handled at the headquarters level with a senior investigation officer probing and officers at the top most level monitoring it. CBI has no role in the case. We have not sent any reports or shared any inputs with CBI about the case. The case is tried only by RPF.