Constable Vinay Dandgawal (40) looked calm and focussed as he and others from Azad Maidan Police’s detection staff tried to solve a theft at Pydhonie on Saturday evening. But his mind was far from peaceful.
A terrorist bullet had grazed Dandgawal’s back at CST station on November 26. Blood was spurting out of the cut but he valiantly continued his duty till the next afternoon when the pain became unbearable.
His family was hysterical because they were watching the television news at their home in Ambarnath and couldn’t reach his cell phone.
“I am mentally disturbed since the attack. I was lucky but my friend constable Rajiv Khanderkar was killed at Cama Hospital,” he said. “My wife is insisting that I transfer to Nashik but that’s not what I want.”
Dandgawal is not the only policeman who is feeling traumatised since the terrorist attack that shook Mumbai. Jaslok Hospital’s Trauma Counselling Cell and a special helpline set up by two private companies on December 2 have been flooded with calls from police personnel, especially constables.
“Over eighty constables have called us over the last week,” said Jane Henry, psychiatric social worker with PPC Worldwide, an international employee assistance programme provider that worked with British Army soldiers in the Iraq war.
PPC worldwide has tied up with Healthcare Solution Service to provide the helpline service as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. The companies also held a group counselling session for the Mumbai Police — over 200 police personnel attended it — on December 5 and 6.
The reasons for the calls to helplines have been varied. While some police personnel were frustrated at not being well armed, some were hurt that the public was blaming them and others were reeling under family pressure to quit the police force.
Henry recounted the call from an angry, young constable who had gone to practice at the Mumbai police firing range. “He was so annoyed that the nothing had changed at the range after the terror attack. They were given single barrel guns which have to be reloaded after every shot,” said Henry.
Counsellors said many officials were also dealing with marital discord post 26/11. “I have got a few calls from constables who were having fights with their wives because they wanted them to quit the force," said Henry.
Dr Maya Kirpalani, who heads the trauma cell at Jaslok, counselled the wife of a police official, who is posted at a suburban station but was deployed to south Mumbai during the terror attack. “The policeman bought his wife to the hospital because she was constantly fretting that he would be killed,” she said, adding that she had asked the lady to distract herself by chatting with neighbours or cooking when she felt anxious.