After Chetan Singh incident, RPF starts counselling sessions for its force | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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After Chetan Singh incident, RPF starts counselling sessions for its force

Oct 21, 2023 07:44 AM IST

Indian Railways is set to begin counselling sessions for its security force to address mental health concerns. The move follows a shooting incident in July, in which a former Railway Protection Force officer killed four people. The counselling sessions will initially involve 40 to 50 staff members and will be conducted by professional counsellors. The railways will also introduce a "buddy system" to encourage staff to discuss their issues with each other. The sessions will take place at multiple locations and the outcomes will inform future medical and mental assistance efforts.

Mumbai: To get a better idea of the state of mental health of its security force, Indian Railways is, for the first time, set to start counselling sessions. At least 40 to 50 Railway Protection Force (RPF) staff will be part of the first batch of sessions that commences on October 21. The process has begun two and a half months after former RPF cop Chetan Singh shot dead four people inside the Mumbai-Jaipur Superfast Express on July 31.

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At present, Indian Railways does not have any mechanism to chart the mental well-being of its staff. Sources said that Indian Railways was looking at putting a mechanism in place to improve the mental health of the RPF even before the shooting incident. The process was expedited after it happened. However, railway officials feel that one of the biggest challenges will be to get staffers to open up even with counsellors about mental health, stress and other issues bothering them.

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The railways have also introduced a ‘buddy system’ in the force. Sources said that the idea was to ensure that at any given point of time during work hours, two RPF staffers tagged along with each other. “The idea is to create bonhomie and an avenue for policemen to discuss issues with each other,” said a Western Railway (WR) official. “This will at least clear stress.” In a worst-case scenario, superior officers will be informed in case any abnormal behaviour is detected.

“Initially 1,500-odd RPF staffers from the Mumbai division will undergo the counselling sessions,” said P C Sinha, inspector-general and principal chief security commissioner, Western Railway. “Professional counsellors will also conduct group sessions and have individual discussions to identify those with psychological issues, if any.”

Once all the policemen have undergone the counselling sessions, a detailed report analysing every individual will be prepared. Like in professional psychiatrist-patient relations, privacy will be maintained. Based on the outcome and analysis drawn from the counselling sessions, future medical and mental assistance will be decided. The job profile of a staffer who is found to be under mental duress could also be decided based on the report.

“We will also rope in the families of those RPF staffers who are diagnosed by the counsellors to have poor mental health,” said another RPF officer. “This will help us understand the situation in their families as well to gauge the possible reasons for their bad mental health.”

The counselling sessions will be carried out at RPF barracks in multiple locations. The number of sessions and their time and periodicity will vary depending on how freely the RPF staff opens up to counsellors, something which rail officials believe will be a major hindrance.

On October 20, Western Railways entered into an MoU with Mpower, an initiative by the Aditya Birla Education Trust, which will provide counsellors. ‘In a proactive effort to address mounting concerns about the mental well-being and stress levels among Indian security forces, the Railway Protection Force, Mumbai Central Division, and Mpower have committed to provide mental health support to around 1,500 security personnel,’ reads a statement from Mpower. Parveen Shaikh, vice-president, operations, at Mpower, said, “We are committed to eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”

However, while the Chetan Singh shooting incident has triggered the idea of counselling sessions for policemen, officials maintain that Singh was mentally sound when he killed his superior officer and three passengers.

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