Street dwellers claim cops are never around when most needed

Mumbai: There has been a recent spurt in cases of abduction of minors living on the streets in the last few months. This serves to highlight the lack of policing and the vulnerability of those living on the streets.  On April 6, the body of a nine-year-old girl from Andheri was found in the drain of a public toilet, two days after she was reported missing. The accused, a 35-year-old paedophile and ex-convict, had kidnapped the girl and raped her in a secluded area at Nehru Nagar in Juhu.

In February, the semi-clad body of a four-year-old minor girl was found near Mahim Church. The girl had been reported missing in the wee hours of February 7 and was found dead behind a car near the church, hours later. She had been kidnapped, raped and murdered by a person who had been living with her family. On April 18, Agripada Police had arrested a teenager for trying to kidnap two minor girls from a footpath near Baby Garden. The girls were lured by the accused with the promise of chocolates. However, the CCTV cameras helped the cops find the girls and the accused in no time.

On April 1, a three-year-old was kidnapped from Bandra (E) footpath and was rescued 10 days later from Churchgate. The toddler had been kidnapped by Mira Kale, 25, a slum dweller, to give away to her sister-in-law, who had no children. In the April 6 incident, anguished locals of Nehru Nagar and residents of the neighbouring, numbering around 300, staged a protest morcha outside Juhu police station. Over 3,500 people gathered outside the crematorium to console the girl’s family.

To assuage the discontent and anger of the citizens, Mumbai Police is considering setting up beat chowkies in remote areas where the number of slum dwellers is high. Police are mapping the city and identifying spots where slum dwellers have encroached footpaths and streets. After such spots are identified, their higher-ups will consider the plan and pitch it to the state home department.  “We are ideally looking forward to setting up at least five beat chowkies per police station jurisdiction, which will give us maximum coverage of the area. Two policemen would be stationed at these beat chowkies to tackle any problem in the area and eventually act as the first line of defence, where crime rates are significantly high,” said a senior police officer.

Citizens are not very heartened by policing but feel a sense of security with the installation of the 5000+ CCTV cameras installed across the city. When The Free Press Journal spoke to some street dwellers, they were of the opinion that even if police are unable to do their jobs of averting situations, the CCTV cameras make the police’s job easier. One of the slumdwellers said, “Police can only see we live on the streets illegally and come to shoo us away, hurling lathis at us. However, we are not their concern at all when we are robbed, subjected to misbehaviour or are at the receiving end of crime. We have seen police shrugging their shoulders and saying we called it upon ourselves.”  As the first step towards changing this negative perception, Mumbai Police will set up beat chowkies for public access.

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