In a recent statement, Naresh Lalwani, the general manager of Central Railway, clarified that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel engaged in train escorting are still using automatic rifles and have not received any directive from the Railway Board to replace them with pistols.
The decision to provide RPF personnel with automatic rifles was taken in 2008 after a terror attack at CSMT.
According to Anand Vijay Jha, former security commissioner of Western Railway Mumbai Central division, the presence of security personnel armed with advanced weapons like automatic rifles acts as a deterrent and should not be discarded.
The plan to deploy automatic rifles in Mumbai was initially proposed after the 26/11 attacks, but it faced delays due to a lack of sufficient stock with the Army. However, RPF's armoury was strengthened in 2011 and WR and CR's Mumbai division were the first to receive these weapons in 2011.
The recent incident involving an on-duty RPF constable, Chetan Singh, who shot dead his superior and three other passengers in the Jaipur Mumbai Superfast express, has raised concerns about the use of automatic rifles. However, an retired official of Indian railway emphasized that attributing the incident solely to the presence of automatic rifles would be unfair. "The case is under investigation, and blaming the weapon type prematurely, especially when passengers' security is at stake, is not prudent" he said.
However sources said that the decision regarding the use of automatic rifles for train security countinue to be a matter of discussion, considering its defensive role in deterring potential threats. The railway authorities maintain that no formal direction for replacement has been issued, and the existing security measures are under review as per the ongoing investigation.