After 12-hour shifts, constables return to old, crumbling homes
The room was tiny – barely 120 feet x 160 feet – and lacked a partition for the kitchen. In one corner, a few paces from the kitchen area, was a four-foot-high partition wall that demarcated the ‘bathroom’mumbai Updated: Sep 01, 2016 23:44 IST
There was an uneasy calm at the BDD chawl at Worli police lines on Thursday. Seven constables’ wives had gathered in a room, watching a news channel’s report on murdered traffic head constable Vilas Shinde on a small television.
The room was tiny – barely 120 feet x 160 feet – and lacked a partition for the kitchen. In one corner, a few paces from the kitchen area, was a four-foot-high partition wall that demarcated the ‘bathroom’.
This is where 51-year-old Shinde lived. The buildings at the chawl are old and crumbling, and 186 families have received notices to vacate their homes. Shinde’s cramped house is typical of the 22,000 quarters available for constables in Mumbai, the majority of which, especially in south Mumbai, are too small to live in peacefully. Each month, Rs4,500 is deducted from constables’ salaries as rent.
A few months ago, a portion of a ceiling fell on a constable’s teenage son in the same building. To prevent any more injuries, families who live in the four-storey chawl pooled in money to get the ceiling strengthened and renovate other parts in their crumbling houses.
The cramped living conditions are especially galling considering Mumbai’s constables regularly work 12-hour days. On special occasions, such as festivals and VIPs visits, they work even longer hours.
From January 2014 to June 2016, 78 Mumbai policemen died of heart attacks while another 206 died of other illnesses.
Another constable’s teenager daughter said she has not spent a single festival with her father. “He is never home during festivals. There is always bandobast duty. During my school’s parent-teacher meeting, only my parents were absent as my father is in the police force.”