The 40,000-strong Mumbai police force is marginally short-staffed, but lower ranking police personnel, who constitute 80% of the force, put in more than 14 hours on duty every day. A majority of them stay at least an hour away from their stations, and this adds travel time to their gruelling 14-hour duty.
A Mumbai police constable, who has spent over 15 years in service, said they spend a lot of their on-duty time on the road, for a range of operations – bandobast duty after terror alerts, security for festivals, anti chain-snatching drives, VIP movement, or traffic management. “The bandobast and fixed point duties never end. Senior officers do not want anything untoward to happen when they are in charge, and so want police presence on the streets. No one grants leaves, and at times, even weekly-offs get cancelled,” the constable said.
“There have been cases in which police personnel have committed suicide, but the incident at Vakola police station is rare, with an ASI murdering a senior officer and then committing suicide. There may be several personal reasons, compounded by stress. Police forces have been conducting stress-relieving exercises regularly,” said K Subramaniam, former DGP, Maharashtra.
Another problem for lower-rank police personnel as well as police officers is lack of sleep. “The long duty hours, along with travel, make a constable sleep-deprived,” said another constable.
“Family lives of constables are affected. Neither can they give time at home, nor can they take care of their health. This results in problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” said a wife of a police officer, who lives in the same colony as ASI Dilip Shirke. She said senior officers often cancel leaves at will, and constables are forced to work double shifts.
However, spokesperson for Mumbai police, Dhananjay Kulkarni, denied a shortage of constables in the city, and said they do not face work pressure, as they do not conduct investigations. He said leaves are not cancelled and constables are granted leaves as per their requirement.