The 30 jawans from Solapur who had been staying at the Gateway of India and guarding the Taj hotel for at least two months were asked to move out of the heritage structure on Thursday night even though they had nowhere else to go.
The State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) jawans have been reduced to living on the footpath across the iconic structure. Senior police officers asked them to vacate the Gateway premises on Thursday night.
“We were told that the Navy is having a programme at the site and asked to move out,” said a jawan posted there since September. “Earlier, at least we had a roof over our heads. The government should have first thought about where we would stay and then moved us.”
The jawans spent the night on the footpath near the Shivaji statue. The jawans now change, dry their clothes and sleep inside their mini SRPF van. Their bags lie strewn all over.
Deputy Commissioner of SRPF, S Ladke, said the authorities are looking for accommodation for them. “If we cannot find anything nearby we will put them up at Worli or Goregaon SRPF units and arrange for a vehicle to drop them [at the Taj] for duty,” he said.
The authorities initially stuffed the men in the one-room police chowky at the Gateway at night. “We know that Gateway is a heritage structure and did our best to not deface it,” said an SRPF officer. “All we did was rest there after our 12-hour duty.”
Ladke also visited the Oberoi hotel SRPF base to enquire about the accommodation problems of jawans posted there. “The jawans posted at Oberoi have a room to change and relax so we will not move them or provide accommodation,” said Ladke. “It’s only the Taj platoon that needs a place.”