Mumbai: 807 city cops have died prematurely while in service since 2014

Mumbai: All's not well with the health of Mumbai Police. 807 policemen, mostly constables, in the 45,000-strong force have died prematurely in the last five-and-a-half years (January 2014 till May 2019) while in service, owing to various ailments. In a fraction of the cases though, the causes were unnatural; accidents and suicides in particular.

The figures recently compiled by Mumbai Police indicate that heart ailments, associated with erratic schedules and lifestyles, remain the topmost cop-killer.

What is shocking however, is the growing incidence of death by cancer, the occurrence of which was rare in the force until a decade ago. Cancer has superseded other lifestyle diseases like liver, kidney and lung ailments, occupying the second spot in the mortality list.

While 178 policemen had succumbed to heart-related ailments over these five years, the number of cancer deaths stood at 78 in the corresponding period.

The figure for deaths due to cancer appears alarming, as it is well above the percentage of cancer deaths reported in the state in the last three years, during which 11,306 persons had died of cancer in the state, with a ratio of .0009 per cent to the 11 crore population of Maharashtra. When it comes to Mumbai Police, this ratio stands at 0.039.

With memories of the tragic death of senior IPS officer Himanshu Roy—who committed suicide in May last year following a protracted battle with cancer -- still fresh in mind, the findings have come as an eye-opener for Mumbai police brass.

“This is a matter of serious concern,” remarked joint commissioner of police, administration, Naval Bajaj. “This is because lifestyle diseases, caused by long commuting hours, duty in the open or uncomfortable workplaces, were presumed to be more prevalent amongst our constables.

We never knew cancer has spread so deep in the force,” he said, adding, “It needs some introspection so that we can find a solution.”

Next on the list of killer diseases is liver ailments, which caused 67 deaths while tuberculosis (TB) and other lung/respiratory diseases accounted for 36 deaths. Kidney failure and other urinary diseases accounted for 21 deaths during this period. Death due to diabetic complications was fifth on the list.

Nevertheless, the overall death toll is considered very high given the fact that on an average, 150-160 constables have been succumbing to diseases every year, against the annual induction of 1,400 personnel into the force.

However, the actual addition to the force is around 300, as 900 retire from the force every year. The mortality figures are equivalent to the total staff strength in a district like Dhule, or the staff in four-five police stations in Mumbai city.

Simply put, it means that over the last five years, the equivalent of an entire district police force or a police zone (comprising four-five police stations) in Mumbai has been wiped off by disease.

For old-timers in Mumbai police, like former Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Shivaji Kolekar, the findings have come as a shocker. “Until a decade ago, policemen would die mostly of ailments associated with kidney, liver or lungs, while diabetes was another area of concern.

But I never heard of someone dying from cancer in my entire career in the Mumbai police,” said Kolekar who retired from the force in 2015 following three-decade long service.

However, the good news is that, of late, deaths caused by viral/ bacterial infections remained low, with just two dengue deaths reported in the last five years.

Another senior official, who spoke requesting anonymity, said that the finding has come as a wake-up call for overhauling the health schemes and awareness programmes in the department.

“We were sitting tight over the fact that the overall mortality figures had come down by 5 per cent in the last 10 years. However, a new killer has quietly crept in and it is on the rise, upsetting all previous parameters,” the official said.

By Debasish Panigrahi

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