Constable Dinesh Patil, 22, hurriedly bites into a vada pav outside Wankhade stadium during the strategic timeout of a cricket match. Some of his colleagues are also there waiting to grab a bite. At a distance, batons, helmets and other anti-riot gear rests on a wall.
It has been nine hours since Dinesh (name changed), a freshly recruited constable from the Mumbai police's local arms division, and his colleagues have been on security duty. He will reach home after midnight, grab a nap and go for another bandobast assignment outside the city limits the next morning. The duty may extend well beyond 12 hours. And it's common routine.
Dinesh gets no food allowance for deployment duties in the city, while those posted outside city limits get a paltry Rs60. He confesses that his purse permits nothing beyond a vada pav.
His story echoes the story of every constable in the Mumbai police. It comes as no surprise to them that 36 of their colleagues from Nehru Nagar police station were caught last month accepting bribes, some as low as Rs50. "Everyone does it. They just ran out of luck," said a constable, requesting anonymity.
Constables account for 33,000 of the 38,500-strong Mumbai force.
At a brainstorming session after this incident, sources said, top officers took a fresh look at the salary drawn by constables, who are the worst paid among state government employees of similar rank. "Constables are paid less than the civic body's conservancy workers though they perform more sensitive and hazardous duties," said a police official, requesting anonymity.
At the time of recruitment, a constable's gross salary is Rs12,000. "In Mumbai, this is hardly sustainable income," the officer said.
Sources said a proposal to the home department to make provisions for a city allowance of Rs3,000 for constables in Mumbai, in addition to their salaries, is in the pipeline. Officials hope this will act as a deterrent when it comes to petty corruption.
Mumbai police commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh said: "I agree that constables are not paid properly. But that cannot justify corruption." Asked about the proposal, Singh said: "The top leadership of the state administration should think over it and do the needful."
"Constable are treated like step-children when it comes to pay revisions and promotions though they are the ones who face the bullets and the beatings," said Arvind Inamdar, former director general of police.
In late1990s, Inamdar said thrice he sent a proposal to the state to pay constables on par with the revenue department's patwadis. "The proposal is gathering dust in Mantralaya."