In a first, railways will allow armed escorts provided by private agencies in goods trains to ensure the safety of commodities susceptible to pilferage and theft, according to an order issued by the national transporter. Armed escorts have been initially approved in the Eastern Railway zone and will be reviewed after a period of six months before it is extended to the other zonal railways, the order issued on January 29 said.
"The Competent Authority have decided to allow travelling of armed escorts in the brake van of moving rakes carrying commodities which are susceptible to theft and pilferage en route," the order from the Railway Board stated.
It was in 2014 that escorts of freight customers were allowed onboard goods trains to secure their consignments. However, they were not allowed to carry any weapons.
"While there are not many cases of thefts or pilferage, we decided to try this out as it was the demand of the sector," a senior official said while elaborating about the move.
The order stated a slew of conditions under which the armed escort can operate.
The escort has to have a request signed by the consignor or consignee indicating the number of escorts and the name of security agencies providing such escorts before loading of the consignment.
The consignor or the consignee has to ensure that the security agencies and the armed escorts travelling in brake van comply with all the Central Acts, the state acts, rules and provisions made by Central and state government.
"Concerned RPF, GRPF and Police should be informed well in advance about such movement by the concerned security agencies...," the order stated.
It also said the consignor or the consignee should provide all particulars of the private security agencies, their armed escorts and details of arms being carried on the goods train along with valid documents.
The armed escorts party will also have to be briefed by a senior executive of security agencies before the commencement of escorting duty, the order stated.
These instructions shall come into effect from February 1 and will remain valid for a period of six months.
"Eastern Railway is requested to closely monitor the movement of armed escorts especially security aspects via-a-vis railway staff in brake-van and furnish a report for implementing the policy on other Zonal Railways," the order stated.