Some of the police colonies in the city were used as jails during the British period and the one near the police commissioner’s office was a horse barrack, said a senior police officer, while discussing the living conditions of policemen.
Today, a large chunk of the force either stays in dilapidated structures or in slums in Mumbai.
Out of the 22,000 quarters given to the constabulary, most are 120-160sqft in size, while a few are 280sqft. And for this, the constables end up paying around Rs5,000-6,000 a month as rent.
While the situation is slightly better in the suburbs, the police lines in Worli are filled with dilapidated buildings. A few years ago, at least 186 families had received notices from the public works department to evacuate the building. This led to protest by residents, forcing senior officials to take corrective measures.
According to police officials, big families get crammed up in small quarters. And the policemen, who are already pushed to their limits, are even more stressed and end up with health issues such as high BP and diabetes.
Time and again, the ruling parties have promised to provide adequate housing to the police force. But the promise is never fulfilled.
The police department, however, may offer some relief. It has acquired around 80 acres of land in Panvel to construct 20,000 homes.
Source said the houses will be built by the police department, which has appointed a contractor, and will be sold on a no-profit-no-loss basis. Each flat will be around 700sqft and the pricing is yet to be finalised.
But this, too, has its share of hiccups. A PIL has been filed in the Bombay high court saying no construction has been carried out despite money being collected from 7,000 policemen. Also, police quarters in Panvel will add more than an hour to the travel time of policemen posted in Mumbai.
Former director general of police and ex-police chief D Sivanandhan said some of the old police colonies need to be demolished to make way for new ones. “Some of the places near the city, where housing is cheap, can also be looked at,” he said, adding the Maharashtra State Police Housing & Welfare Corporation limited can build the houses.