Thank the dogs for keeping you safe and moving
Explosive Detection Machines (EDM) are expensive and cost around Rs 10-12 lakh each. In contrast, dogs are more cost-effective and are all available at less than one lakh rupees each
With 60 lakh people using the suburban local trains daily and a large number of long-distance trains originating from the Mumbai division of Central Railways, safety and security are among the highest concerns. Railway officials concede that while the stress levels are unrelenting, they are increasingly relying on the dog squad to sniff out explosives and contraband.
The reasons are many. Explosive Detection Machines (EDM) are expensive and cost around Rs 10-12 lakh each. In contrast, dogs are more cost effective and are all available at less than one lakh rupees each. The most expensive of them, Dobermanns, cost the Railways about one lakh rupees while Labradors and Belgian Malinois cost even less.
While recurring cost of feeding the dogs, training them and keeping them in airconditioned comfort is considerably higher, there are other advantages that dogs have over machines. The EDM is cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring passengers to open suspicious luggage. Dogs can sniff out explosives without passengers having to open their luggage.
The EDM is also erratic in detecting the ‘new explosives’ but the trained dogs do not seem to have any difficulty. The accuracy and the success rate of the EDM is also much less than the dogs, officials point out. In fact, the accuracy with which the dogs strike regularly is at double the accuracy of the EDM. Dogs have been also found to be far more efficient than human beings.
Some officials confided that the induction of the dog squad has led to substantial reduction in the movement of contraband like the Brown Sugar and Cannabis on trains.
Yet another advantage the dogs have over human beings, they say, is the sense of security they provide to the passengers. They often intimidate the suspects with their size, are faster than human beings in chasing and pinning them down.
The Belgian Malinois are said to have assisted US military in tracking and killing the then ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are deployed at the White House. But the breed cannot be deployed in Mumbai, sources explain, because of their allergy to congested places and crowds. They need more space to operate and hence have been posted in Pune, Bhusawal and Nagpur.
Dogs in the squad are divided into ‘sniffers’ whose task is to assist in looking for explosives and narcotics, and ‘trackers’ who are trained for patrolling the stations and yards and follow the trails and scent left behind by culprits. They are also trained at scent discrimination and pick out the culprit out of many in the crowd.
The dogs are deployed at a time for two to eight hours, say the minders. They require to be rested and fed well. They also need clean and hygienic places, regular medical check-ups and depending on the season, fans and air-conditioners. While the minders are not authorised to speak to the media and share details, they seem genuinely fond of their dogs and have built a relationship of trust.
Nine new members of the squad, a Dobermann and eight Labradors, have just been inducted after 32 weeks of rigorous training.