A small hillock at Siddharth Nagar slums dotted with shanties and makeshift shops, in the heart of the upscale Worli area, acts as a perfect cover to one of the biggest drug dealers in Mumbai.
Fifty-year-old Shashikala Ramesh Patankar alias Baby Patankar, a notorious drug peddler, operates out of a four-room house here.
For the Mumbai police — Worli police station and a unit of the anti-narcotic cell (ANC) are located within 500 metres of Baby’s residence — the slums have proved to be a major hurdle in arresting Patankar.
Hindustan Times made an attempt to reach Baby Patankar’s house on Thursday, to find out how difficult it really is.
A bylane touching Dr Annie Besant Road is the last point till where one can take their vehicle.
The journey to the top of hill starts from the bylane, around 10- feet- wide. However, this quickly narrows down to a width, which is barely enough for one person to walk at a time.
But it is not just the narrow path that proves to be a hurdle in reaching the hilltop.
As one walks ahead, the number of shanties, huts and makeshift rooms keeps increasing, and so does the number of bylanes that crisscross the area.
It can be a nightmarish experience for one who does not know the road to Patankar’s house, as the locals refuse to answer to any question about her address. Asking about her invites hostile stares and rude gestures as one moves ahead.
Even with the correct address and the knowledge to reach Patankar’s house, it is a 30-minute walk up the hill, a time frame which has almost always allowed Patankar to engineer an escape. It was not long before a team from the anti-narcotic cell had tried to arrest Patankar. But the team of officials who trekked their way up to the hillock first saw Patankar rush through one of the four doors of her hideout, said police sources.
A constable who had followed her through another route had to make a quick retreat. Patankar had gone inside and taken her clothes off, later creating a ruckus that the constable had tried to molest her, said sources.
The officers had retreated at that time as they did not have a woman police officer with them. Later, cops raided the drug mafia’s den again – this time accompanied by women staff. But even this time, Baby managed to escape.
The team could only find her daughter- in- law Sarika Patankar and nephew Upendra Mazgaonkar, with 21 grams of Mephedrone.
Patankar’s escape is invariably engineered by the locals who, on each occasion, alert her of a new person, especially police, entering the slum. At times, they even provide her with shelter. In turn, Patankar helps them financially.
But it is not alone the locals who shelter Baby Patankar. “There are policemen l i ke Dharma Kalokhe and certain politicians who help her to escape every time,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.