Surrounded by heritage and abutting a Mughal-era monument, the Mehrauli Police station, one of the oldest stations since the formation of the police force following the Indian Police Act, 1861, was among the five police stations in Delhi during the British rule.
The first building that came into existence in 1861 used to be a large open space. The station which used to be housed in the old tehsil initially, which is the SDM office now, moved into a new building a few yards away after Independence. It was renovated during the 80s. However, with the population explosion and the subsequent traffic of cases, it has run out of space. It remains congested with seized property and piles of documents dating back to the 1800s.
Recently, a proposal to move the building to a larger space was moved along with stations that don’t have their own buildings. “The proposal to move into a new building has been approved. We have identified a land for which the allotment process is on, but it will take some time for the new building to come up. At present, we have been making efforts to preserve the old records in the best possible manner. These can be put on display in the new building. Activity-wise, it is the largest police station of south district. The annual registration of cases goes up to 3,500. The present building and infrastructure aren’t sufficient, as there is acute shortage of required paraphernalia,” said DCP (south) Ishwar Singh.
Unlike other old buildings such as Kotwali in Old Delhi and Mandir Marg, which have been declared heritage buildings by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Mehrauli station could not get that status as its old building could not survive. Today, within Delhi Police’s south-eastern range and under the south district, being one of the oldest and located in one of the most crowded areas, it is also one of the busiest police stations of the city. With a population of around five lakh, it is understaffed and the personnel keep busy round the clock.
Talking about records, senior police officers, said, the first FIR in this station was registered on November 2,1861. It was about a missing buffalo. The FIR was filed in Persian, which could not be translated.
“It has been kept as a relic with all the other records. The station has a long history. There are two halls where permanent records of cases are kept. With growing piles of records and case properties, the building seems to have shrunken over time,” said Singh.
Also, she added, the station’s entry is a problem, as besides being clogged from all four sides on the busy Kalu Ram Chowk, it is on an elevated surface. The place gets waterlogged whenever it rains, and mobility of vehicles becomes an issue during an emergency.
“The walls and ceilings struggle with seepage. Monsoon makes it worse. We have to work hard keep the records safe from rodents, insects and other damage,” said an officer posted at the station.
The building stands in the corner from where its age-old bazaar begins. It is metres away from the iconic Adham Khan’s tomb, also known as, Bhool Bhulaiya and the triangular patch of the Mehrauli Bus Terminal. The entire stretch is chaotic with vegetable and fruit vendors and a slew of autrorickshaws encroaching upon the space leaving no room for the traffic to move. Old timers recalled that this area from the bus terminal to the police station used to be wide open, with only a few kiosks and ample space for buses to be parked outside.
“I remember my school would share its wall with the police station. There used to be a few staff quarters here. There was a huge parking space, where we would play cricket. At that time, there was no space crunch as most of the area used to have fields. Today, driving a two-wheeler here is a task,” he said.
In the last two years, the former station house officer (SHO) Raman Lamba gave it a facelift. He divided it into two sections — Diwan-E-Aam and Diwan-E-Khas — on the lines of Mughal emperor Akbar’s rule. While the conference hall in Diwan-E- Aam is reserved for public meetings, the Diwan- E-Khas has been earmarked for inter-departmental meetings.
Policing is a challenging task in the area, as it has a large number of migrant population with little or no identification, said an official. “Since the area is a heritage zone with structures such as the Qutub Minar within its range, a lot of foreign as well as domestic visitors come here all through the year. Then the floating population is too much for the present personnel strength at the station,” said an official.
In order to lessen the burden, new police stations including Neb Sarai and Fatehpur Beri were attached to the Mehrauli station. However, officials claim that it continues to be the busiest and has little room to breathe.