Corruption has shattered the reputation of Mumbai police

D Sivanandhan writes: Once touted as a force second only to Scotland Yard, it’s a mere shadow of its former self.

A recent news report about a Mumbai Police head constable has gone viral and raised eyebrows. As per the report, Jitendra Shinde, the head constable who was Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s bodyguard, earned an annual income of a whopping Rs 1.5 crore — several times the salary of the Mumbai Police Commissioner, currently a DGP rank officer.

It is but natural therefore that questions are being raised. One will have to wait for the outcome of an inquiry initiated against Shinde by the police chief. If the details mentioned in the report are true, Shinde will have to provide details of how he managed to earn so much money, because as per the service rule, a government official is not allowed to have a dual source of income while in service.

Shinde has reportedly said that the income in question was from a company run by his wife that provides private security guards to film stars. This is the subject of the inquiry and best not commented on at this moment.

The reports also indicate that Shinde had been recently transferred following a new diktat from the police chief that if a policeman has completed five years of service in the same post and position, he/she should be transferred. However, what makes the otherwise creditable step suspicious is the fact that Shinde was transferred to the DB Marg police station in South Mumbai. If an inquiry has been initiated against him, Shinde should have ideally been transferred to the Local Arms Division or a non-executive post. Transferring and posting him to a high-profile police station raises eyebrows. Did someone influence his posting? Is the police administration serious about the inquiry or is it just a hogwash?

Several years ago, when I was posted in Satara as the Superintendent of Police (SP), I got a call one day from a senior cabinet minister of Maharashtra. The minister gave me the name of a havaldar and asked me not to transfer him from a particular police chowki. I was a bit surprised as to why a senior politician was giving me orders about a havaldar. When I prodded him a bit, he inadvertently said that the havaldar was a karyakarta of his party. I politely asked him to repeat, and he corrected himself.

I then enquired about the havaldar and found out that he had been posted continuously at that particular chowki for nine years. As per the rules, after completion of three years at a chowki, a havaldar needs to be transferred and posted elsewhere. The minister was for another extension which would have made the havaldar’s tenure at the chowki, 12 years. It was clear that the havaldar was working more as a karyakarta for the minister and his party than the police department.

I then called up the minister, apprised him of the situation and politely declined to adhere to his request and transferred the havaldar to another post.

Another instance that comes to mind is the heart-wrenching story of police commando Ravindra Patil, who was actor Salman Khan’s bodyguard during the infamous hit-and-run case in September 2002. Immediately after the accident, Patil had registered the First Information Report (FIR) and was the main eyewitness to the incident.

As days went by and the case came up in court, Patil was abandoned by his own department and left to fend for himself. Within a span of a few years, a highly trained commando was reduced to a pile of bones. He weighed a mere 30 kgs the day he was found dead in his small room in Bhoiwada. He literally shrank to his death.

It has been an unwarranted practice of VIPs, film-stars and politicians to demand bodyguards of their choice. This practice does not augur well for the police force and should be stopped forthwith. As per sources, the VIPs form a comfort level with their bodyguards, which is often based on a quid pro quo rather than a purely professional arrangement.

It is also high time some stringent measures are put in place to repair the broken image of the police force, especially the Mumbai Police whose image has taken a severe beating in the past few months. Once touted as a force second only to Scotland Yard, it’s a mere shadow of its former self.

Almost every day we come across reports of policemen being arrested for taking bribes, FIRs being filed against policemen for extortion and other serious offences. A few weeks back, newspapers and news channels carried reports of the arrested Mumbai Police officer Sachin Vaze being in possession of several luxury and high-end cars. The question that needs to be asked is: Why was he taken back into the police force in the first place, when a trial in a murder case is pending against him?

A retired high-profile police inspector has been arrested along with Vaze for reportedly planting explosives outside business tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s house Antilia on Altamount Road in South Mumbai. Look-out notices have been issued against a sitting Maharashtra DGP. At least five FIRs of extortion and other serious offences have been registered against the DGP. A former state home minister is under the radar of central law enforcement agencies and has been reportedly avoiding their summons.

All these make one wonder: Quo Vadis Mumbai Police? Where are you headed?

This column first appeared in the print edition on September 4, 2021 under the title ‘Not the same force’. The writer is a retired Director General of Police, Maharashtra & former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai.

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