The Marine Lines police knew neither about the women commuter’ complaints nor about the existence of the liquor shop in the subway
Mumbai : An alcohol shop in a dimly lit subway with no security guards, no CCTV cameras is the perfect hangout for the dozen or so vagabonds that emerge after 10 pm. They fix their drinks just five feet away from the shop and sit on the steps leading to the railway station, leering at women commuters, now and then passing a lewd comment at them. This subway is not in a corner of the city but at Churchgate, a stone’s throw from Vidhan Sabha.
This month alone, three women have complained in writing about being harassed by sozzled louts to the station master, whose office is less than 100 metres from the liquor shop. Earlier this month, K C College student Dharam Mishra and his friend intervened when they saw that two-three louts had grabbed a girl by her hand. “The louts fled when confronted. We immediately filed a complaint with the station master but have yet to hear from him,’’ said Mishra.
When FPJ contacted the station master, R N Tiwari, on Tuesday, he said, “I have forwarded the complaints to the Government Railway Police (GRP). Senior inspector A D Jadhav of the GRP, in turn, had passed on the complaints to the Marine Lines police station, as it has jurisdiction over the spot. Senior inspector Rameshwar Supale of Marine Lines police station knew neither about the letters nor about the existence of the liquor shop. Questioned further, he said, “Our cops patrol the subway but we can’t post a man there as we are short-staffed.’’
Divisional Railway Manager Shailendra Kumar of the Western Railway also said that the railways had nothing to do with the issue as it was not in their jurisdiction.
State excise commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee said that the alcohol shop had been granted a licence as there are no religious or educational institutes within 75 metres of it. “But if it is posing a threat to women’s security, the local police inspector has to write to the district collector, who can revoke the licence under section 162.”
Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, High Court advocate and member of the National Commission for Women was surprised to hear about the liquor shop in the subway. “If the authorities are taking the matter lightly, this is a grave mistake,’’ she said. She added that she would take up the matter with the police commissioner. “An alcohol store cannot run in a subway. This has to stop.”
When this correspondent contacted Joint Commissioner of police (law and order) Sadanand Date on Friday, December 20, he said he would look into the matter. At 9.30 pm on Friday night, this correspondent received a call from Inspector Ghadte of the Mumbai police control room, who wanted her to go to Marine Lines police station and “draft a complaint and attach copies of previous complaints’’.
Commuters say the shop has been there for more than a decade. The shop manager, who refused to identify himself, told this correspondent that the owner was Manish Sahni of Sahni Group but refused to give his phone number.
Nandita Shah of Akshara, a women’s welfare foundation that has been campaigning for making public places safe for women, was not aware of the liquor shop. She promised to look into the issue and protest against it when this correspondent spoke to her on Thursday.