Between March 2011 and August 2012, tasked with the job of putting Mumbai’s nightlife in order, assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble conducted around 550 raids, rescued more than 1,200 girls from bars and brothels and arrested more than 5,000 people for pushing women into the flesh trade.
Dhoble was brought to the social service branch on deputation from the economic offences wing (EOW) by then police commissioner Arup Patnaik, who wanted to ensure that the city’s bars, pubs, lounges, nightclubs and discotheques had all the relevant licences, did not break deadlines and were not involved in any kind of prostitution racket.
Officials said the SSB had never had an ACP-level officer and that the only ACP in SSB before him was the head of the Juvenile Aid Protection Unit. The post had been specially created for Dhoble. His raids — conducted with his trademark hockey stick — invited criticisms of high-handedness and harassment and Dhoble started being called the party-pooper, but Patnaik stood by him, saying that he was acting as per the law.
Dhoble raided pubs, five-star hotels, lodges, restaurants and even eateries that stayed open after closing time. In fact, many of these joints had started keeping track of Dhoble’s movements, hoping to anticipate his plans for the day.
While partygoers and celebrities severely criticised Dhoble for disrupting the city’s nightlife and for his alleged insensitivity towards patrons of these joints, he had a lot of supporters as well, in the form of residents who live close to such joints and had to face the brunt of drunken misbehaviour, noise and traffic jams that went on into the night.
The ACP was accused of highhandedness by some. Those he arrested moved courts, but the courts upheld Dhoble’s action.
Towards the end of Patnaik’s tenure, the number of raids had, however, gone down and Dhoble had turned his attention to the problem of child labourers. In his new posting, Vakola and Vile Parle police stations fall under Dhoble’s jurisdiction.