Mumbai cops target ‘panwalla loophole’ to tighten security in flat rentals

  • Saurabh M Joshi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 17, 2015 16:30 IST

Having realised how frequently they act as middlemen in flat rental deals, the Mumbai police will now rope in panwallas and building security guards and sensitise them about the importance of informing their local police station about any deals they broker.

This step is one of several anti-terror measures the police are taking in the run-up to the festive season, which starts with Eid. It was on the agenda when police commissioner Rakesh Maria met senior officials – deputy police commissioners and above – on Wednesday evening.

Officials from the Mumbai police’s anti-terror cells (ATC) will have the task of identifying and sensitising panwallas, security guards and other such middlemen. “They will be taken into confidence and we will help them understand the seriousness of not informing the police about flat deals,” said a crime branch officer, who did not wish to be named.

It is already mandatory for real estate agents and property owners to inform the police about any property that is rented out. The police, however, have since came across several instances in which security guards and panwallas act as intermediaries in flat rentals.

“Owners of many newly developed properties strike up relationships with local grocers, panwallas and security guards to help them find customers, as this way they don’t have to pay hefty commissions to estate agents. There have been several instances in which such middlemen find a party and mediate a deal, keeping the police in the dark,” said a crime branch officer, who did not wish to be named.

The move is in response to past incidents in which terrorists rented apartments in the city and lived there for days before carrying out an attack. This was the case in the triple blasts of 2011, ahead of which Indian Mujihideen terrorists had rented a room in a Byculla building.

To enable them to keep tabs on suspicious tenants, the police subsequently made it compulsory for all tenants to declare their identity and antecedents.

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