Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fear stalks policemen in unsafe homes

The police quarters in Worli are in desperate need of repairs


By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Nine-year-old Naina tiptoes from her second floor residence in the Worli police quarters to the ground-floor every morning on her way to school. Her mother, Sarika, is afraid some portion of the building may give in anytime. “The roof could collapse, the staircase is also not in a usable condition. But we have to stay here since we don’t have a choice,’’ she sighed.

With paint peeling off the walls and corridors scarred by deep cracks running along the ceiling and walls, the building is
just one of several dilapidated structures in the compound. Residents fear that if the situation worsens, the entire structure may collapse.

Proposals to construct new police quarters and repair the old ones are long pending while scores of policemen serving the city force for the last 15-20 years remain deprived of official residences. At least 20,000 cops
in the city are forced to live on rent in chawls or in slums, sometimes in the distant suburbs.

A head constable, who is attached to the Crawford Market police headquarters and lives in Kalyan, said, “It’s difficult, I have to reach here by 8 am, but there is no guarantee of going home by 8 pm. If I had stayed somewhere in Mumbai, it would not be so difficult. When I leave in the morning my children are sleeping, when I reach home they are fast asleep. I hardly get time with them,’’ he said.

The Maharashtra State Police Housing Corporation (MSPHC), with a cor
pus of Rs 30 crore sanctioned two years ago for the construction of new quarters, has a dismal record. Plans to build over 500 housing units using the Rs 30 crore sanctioned by the state, for instance, have not been implemented through the tenures of at least two successive MSPHC managing directors, P S Pasricha and Rahul Gopal.

Managing director of the housing corporation, Suprakash Chakravarty, said, “We are making a lot of quarters. We floated tenders for the construction of new quarters and the work is in progress.’’


As for the dilapidated police quarters at Chembur, Ghatkopar, BDD Chawl Worli, Pant Nagar and Naigaon, the Mumbai police chief is optimistic that work will proceed at a smooth pace.

“Following repeated reminders, the government has sanctioned Rs 48 crore for the repair of these quarters. The PWD which will repair the quarters has already been given Rs 20 crore by the state,’’ police commissioner A N Roy said. Sources said there are over 1,500 quarters that are in need of urgent repairs. But, as usual, there are no deadlines for anything.


The Times of India, October 25, 2005

Killed criminal not all that ‘feared’


Sunil Narayan Shinde alias Batla


By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: After his death in a police “encounter’’ on October 14, Sunil Narayan Shinde alias Batla was proclaimed a “dreaded criminal’’ by the force that killed him. But it was a very different story when he lived.

The same force did not find anything so “dreaded’’ about Batla then. He was recruited by the Chhota Shakeel gang “to provide information about builders and businessmen’’, officials said, admitting there was not even one case of murder or attempt to murder against him. Batla’s death near Rizvi College in Bandra was the 10th encounter death this year.

Officials said Batla, a smalltime crook who was mostly booked for thefts and break-ins in the 1990s, came in touch with a Chhota Shakeel gang member outside a city court a couple of years back. He was initially offered the job of a “tipper’’, officials said; he was asked to keep tabs on big businessmen and builders with several projects.

He was allaged to have done a couple of jobs for the Dubaibased Faheem Machmach of the Dawood Ibrahim gang.

But the first time he came on the anti-extortion cell’s radar was in early 2004 when he came to collect Rs 50 lakh from a builder near the zoo in Byculla.
Batla and two others were arrested in this case and a countrymade revolver was seized from them.

He got bail but the anti-extortion cell started looking for him again when he called up another builder who stayed near Nana Chowk; Batla apparently asked the builder from where he should collect Rs 25 lakh on behalf of Machmach. The next case against Batla was regis
tered in 2005 after he allegedly threatened a businessman for Rs 15 lakh. But, again, he did not come to collect the money.

There were a few other cases against him. The Byculla police arrested him in 1993, when he was just 14, for stealing a ceiling fan. Batla was sent to the Dongri juvenile remand home where he was kept for six months and was released. The
Byculla police registered another case against him in 1994; he was allegedly involved in a break-in at a Mazgaon home and fled with Rs 27,500. The police recovered Rs 9,000.

He was alleged to have stolen a three-wheeler part in 1997 and, in 1999, he was alleged to have broken into a house in the jurisdiction of L T Marg police station. He was arrested with two colleagues but was later
released on bail.

The next case against him was for extortion (again in an area under the jurisdiction of the L T Marg police station). Next came another Khar house break-in case where he, along with associates, was alleged to have looted ornaments and jewellery worth over Rs 5 lakh.

The last case against him pertained to a a squabble this June
with a Byculla resident.

Additional police commissioner (west) Param Bir Singh, however, blamed Batla for the encounter and insisted that it was he who first opened fire. “What do policemen do when someone opens fire? They will also have to fire in self-defence. We try to nab gangsters alive, we have also arrested a number of gangsters alive,’’ Singh said.

Batla’s father is a handcartpuller who hardly earns Rs 80 a day. He is the head of a family of seven, inlcuding three daughters, at Patrawali Chawl in Mazagaon; all three daughters work as domestic helps in nearby buildings.

Batla’s mother, Anjana, was in a state of shock when TOI met her. “My son had a vadapav stall in the Love Lane area of Mazgaon. BMC employees took away his stall since he could not bribe them. He was without employment for two months ago,’’ his father said.

One of his neighbours, however, said Batla shut down the vada-pav stall because of losses. He would come late at night and leave early in the morning, the neighbour added. “The police claimed he went to collect millions but we never saw him wearing expensive clothes or boozing,’’ another neighbour said. Batla, of course, isn’t there for his side of the story.


The Times of India, October 25, 2005

Cop loses job for Sahar rape

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: In contrasting fortunes for two disgraced policemen, constable Chandrakant Pawar, accused of raping a ragpicker near Sahar police station on October 17, was dismissed from service on Monday night while his colleague in Navi Mumbai, Hamid Qazi, was given a clean chit by the Nerul bar girl who had charged him with raping her twice, on October 11 and 12.

The former bar girl retracted her statement before a magistrate two days ago, stating that she had been forced by her husband to frame the policeman. “I was under pressure. I was neither molested nor raped by any constable.”

The Times of India, October 25, 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Activists seek more considerate cops

TAMING THE ROGUE

‘Nerul girl is being illegally detained’

By Devraj Dasgupta & Mateen Hafeez/TNN
Mumbai: Women’s group in the city have alleged that the Nerul rape victim is being illegally detained by the Navi Mumbai police.

Activists from various women’s organisations handed over a memorandum at the office of the director-general of police on Saturday afternoon.

The 19-year-old bar girl is allegedly being detained at the Nerul police station as the cops want her help with the probe and if at all she is allowed to go home, she is under house arrest. “When I went to meet the girl two days ago, policemen gave me the wrong address. I went to the police station again and when I asked for a constable to be sent with me so that I could locate the victim, they summoned a woman sitting in the ladies’ room and introduced her as the rape victim,’’ said Hasina Khan of Awaz-e-Niswan. Khan said the rape victim told her she was being detained at the police station without being told why. According to Khan, the victim was raped
twice—on October 11 and 12— and the accused cop threatened her to keep mum.

On Saturday, when TOI visited the victim’s shanty at Sarsole in Sector 6 of Nerul,
two women constables posted there said the victim was asleep and could not be disturbed.

Soon, two plainclothes cops arrived at the spot and said the victim was changing and would be ready in 10 minutes. However, 10 minutes later, TOI found the hut locked and the constables missing. Residents of the slum were too terrified to talk about her, while her husband, Aminur Gazi, was nowhere to be seen.

Vijay Kamble, Navi Mumbai police commissioner, denied allegations that the victim was being harassed or detained. “How can we do that to a victim? She may have been brought to the police station for questioning,’’ he said.

Kamble said the police were yet to arrest the second policeman named by the rape victim in her complaint. “We have zeroed in on some policemen at Nerul police station, but investigations are still on to find out who accompanied the accused constable, Hamid Qazi,’’ he said.


Meanwhile, Armaity Irani from Janwadi Mahila Sanghatnana said the police had not even given a copy of the FIR in the rape case to the victim. “We want to know why she is being kept in the dark? She doesn’t even know about the sections that the police have applied against Qazi,’’ Irani said.


‘Police need to be gender sensitive’

By Nitasha Natu & Rukmini Shrinivasan/TNN
Mumbai: Gender sensitisation programmes for the police after the Marine Drive rape case have opened a can of worms regarding sexual harassment of women in the force.

Counsellors who conducted these programmes, recounted how several women officers said they regularly faced harassment at the workplace. “Making embarrassing or lewd remarks or deliberately holding a woman officer back at the police station till late in the night is common. Resisting a superior’s advances could result in a transfer,’’ a counsellor from the Tata Institute of Social Studies (TISS), said.

Policewomen told counsellors that most constables and some officers are drunk on night duty. The city force has 35,000 cops of which 2,500 are women. Three IPS officers, two deputy commissioners and a joint commissioner are women. When contacted, joint police commissioner (crime) Meera Bor
wankar told TOI that no written complaints about sexual harassment had come to her. “Our priority for women officers includes making restrooms and changing rooms available,’’ she said, adding the police had constituted a panel to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace headed by a woman ACP and constituting women officers.

Activists say values and attitudes of cops towards women need to change. A TISS counsellor who conducted such programmes said male officers often have a stereotypical attitude, mostly due to their socio-economic backgrounds. “We had to train them to focus on the victim’s trauma, in cases such as rape, and also why female victims need to be treated differently,’’ she said.

“Bar girls and slumdwellers are routinely harassed in police stations and it shouldn’t take a rape for this to be addressed,’’ she added. Activists say women have reported feeling uncomfortable in police stations, especially after sunset. They feel they are being stared at, that remarks are being passed about them and they do not feel safe.


Activists say these programmes are an easy way for the force to escape criticism. The police claim to have been conducting them since the 1979 Mathura rape case. Said Flavia Agnes, lawyer and women’s rights activist, “No one bothers to find out if the programmes have an impact or what the cops have learnt.’’

The Times of India, October 23, 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Report says Sahar cop was not drunk


Police commissioner A N Roy


By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Constable Chandrakant Pawar, accused of raping a ragpicker, was not sent for the d e - a d d i c - tion programme instituted after the Marine Drive rape case, because he was classified as a ‘frequent drinker’ and not a ‘habitual drinker’, police commissioner A N Roy said.

According to Roy, the chemical analyser’s report states that Pawar had not consumed alcohol when he raped the minor girl. Roy’s statement is at odds with the statements of eyewitnesses who said that Pawar was reeking of alcohol. “I am being made out to be a liar for sticking my neck out,’’ said an angry Sathyan Nair, who apprehended Pawar and took him to the police station.

However, Roy stuck to his guns. “It’s not true. Raping someone is a more serious offence than consuming alcohol. We have arrested him for raping the girl. Action has been taken in the form of his suspension.’’ Sources said Pawar is likely to be dismissed this week.

Meanwhile, the victim along with her family will soon be moved to a ‘safe place’ from her current dwelling. The victim came back home to her mother on Thursday after spending two days in a children’s home. A probation officer certified the safety and overall condition of her house after which she was allowed to return.

TOI had on Wednesday reported that the girl’s mother was upset that her daughter had to spend the night in a remand home with strangers. Women’s groups had taken a morcha to the police station demanding the girl be returned to her family.

Police officials said they were planning to rehabilitate the victim’s family in some other area and help them find a job. The victim’s family, however, has been claiming that they were asked to leave the city and were even offered money. They also said they had been summoned twice for questioning, after the victim returned home.


The Times of India, October 22, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cop’s death raises questions

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: A constable in the city police died mysteriously on Thursday morning. The police suspect he received wrong treatment and are waiting for the postmortem report.

Deputy commissioner of police Ankush Shinde of Zone IV said constable Ra
jkumar Nabodhkar, who was recently recruited, was working with the local arms unit of the city police. “He was suffering from a skin disease and was undergoing treatment at Jeevan Singh medical centre at Antop Hill. On Thursday morning when he went to the medical centre, he was administered saline,” he said.

The Times of India, October 21, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

City robbers behind Pune thefts, say cops

SHIFTING AVENUES

By Mateen Hafeez TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Mumbai: Gangs of robbbers in Mumbai are suspected to have shifted base to Pune, given the spurt in crime rate in the otherwisepeaceful city.

At least five banks and a jewellery shop have been looted in the past month and in most cases the modus operandi was similar. All the incidents took place either before 9.30 am or after 6 pm.

“The robbers always targeted small banks, which were at a distance from police stations and not very crowded,’’ an officer from Pune said.

In one case, a gang of five to six robbers barged into Vaidya Sahakari Bank in Kondva area of Pune, threatened the employees and took away Rs five lakh in cash.


In another incident, three robbers who were armed with a chopper and guns looted Rs three lakh in cash from Cantonment Cooperative bank at Dhankandi during the Ganesh festival. The robbers also attacked the watchman when he tried to intervene.

According to eyewitnesses, in all the loot cases, the robbers ordered the bank

employees to line up and locked them up in a room. Only the manager or cashier was left out to hand over the cash.

The robbers usually escaped on motorbikes, kept at a distance from the crime scene.

The modus operandi re
mained the same even during an attack by four to five armed robbers on Oyster Bay, a jewellery shop under the jurisdiction of Lashkar police station.

The robbers forced three women employees and a man to enter the bathroom at gunpoint. They locked them from outside. Later, they threatened the manager to hand over silver, gold and diamond ornaments worth over Rs 50 lakh.

Mumbai police suspects that these gangs have fled the city after a special squad was formed to crackdown on robberies, resulting in the arrest of several criminals under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

On Tuesday, a special court also convicted three persons accused of armed robbery to seven years rigorous imprisonment.

The Times of India, October 17, 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fraudster makes a crore with promises of jobs in the Gulf

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: The MRA Marg police is hunting for Kerala-based recruitment agent Nisar Ahmed Ansari for cheating 366 job-seekers to the tune of almost Rs 1 crore. Officials say the figure is expected to increase with more complainants coming forward. The identity of two other accused has not been disclosed.

Assistant inspector Dattaram Sawant said the accused would come to Mumbai every year and give ads in newspapers to lure unemployed persons. Jobs would be promised in Muscat, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Brunei and Oman and Ansari would charge upwards of Rs 5,000, officials added.

A similar case was registered against Ansari in the same police station in 2001 wherein he was accused of cheating at least 200 people to the tune of over Rs 50 lakh. He was granted bail and was “absconding’’, officials said.

Mira Road resident Akhil Kumar Panigrahi lodged a complaint with the police early this week. Another victim said: “I saved Rs 15,000 over the last four years for my sister’s marriage but gave it to Ansari so that I could go to Muscat. He has ruined my life.’’


Ayaz Ahmed (name changed), hailing from Madhya Pradesh, gave Rs 20,000 to Ansari so that he could get an air-conditioner mechanic’s job in Dubai. He said: “We had a plot in Bhopal. We sold it so that I could go to abroad and earn for my family. Now I have been coming to the police station but there is no progress.’’

Sawant said Ansari would rent a place and advertise in newspapers. The choice of sectors he offered was wide, inviting applications from marine engineers, mechanical engineers, software professionals, fitters, electricians, tailors. “He shut down his office and fled with the money,’’ Sawant said.

The modus operandi was simple. Ansari would meet the jobseeker and convince him/her that s/he would be going abroad soon. Applicants would then be sent for medical check-ups and classes in spoken Arabic and English. They would be showed photocopies of bogus visas and asked to pay. Candidates, who tried to make inquiries, were given back their money. This enhanced his credibility in the market, officials said.

Ansari’s bio-data and photo have been sent to at least 150 guesthouses and all city police stations.

The Times of India, October 16, 2005

Monday, October 10, 2005

Doc may be linked to med admissions

EXTORTION RACKET

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: The Nagpada police, probing the Rs one crore extortion case in which Dr Niraj Dube is the prime accused, are now suspecting him of running a medical admission racket in Thane and suburbs.

Claiming that such rackets ran in at least three colleges in Nalasopara, Vashi and Virar, senior inspector with Nagpada police, Ashok Duraphe— told TOI: “Although Dube said he charged Rs 25 lakh from a student for admission to Dube Medical College (Nalasopara), he could only produce the receipt of the ‘fees’ and not that of the amount paid for the management quota.’’
C l a i m i n g that they were exploring all angles, police said that the case was likely to be bigger than what it seemed in terms of the ‘admission racket’. Dube along with his two brothers, Satish and Pankaj, was arrested on October 5 for trying to extort Rs one crore at gun-point from Dr Aabid Ansari—the complainant in the case.

In 2004, Dube had given Rs 50 lakh to Ansari for two admissions to Terna Medical College in Panvel. However, Ansari said that he had returned the money since the management quota was closed by the time he approached the college for admission. It was in January this year that Ansari was
flooded with threat calls from Dube, who demanded Rs one crore. On October 5, the Dube brothers along with an unidentified man barged into Ansari’s fourth floor residence at Madanpura area of Byculla and threatened him at gun-point.

Soon, a huge crowd gathered near Ansari’s building, and after catching hold of the Dube brothers handed them over to the police, which recovered three imported revolvers (two UK-made and one of US make) and 17 live cartridges from them. Licenses for the three revolvers, worth Rs six lakh, seized were issued from Raigad.

The Nagpada police have written to the Raigad authorities, asking them to pro
vide details of the reason cited by the Dubes while procuring the licenses.

Meanwhile, a
witness and a complainant in the case has alleged that the police had also found a bullet of another revolver, which had mysteriously vanished at the police station. “The police should investigate further on the fourth revolver and the bullet they seized during the personal search of the accused. They are trying to hush up the matter of another bullet,’’ said the witness. Two years ago, the economic offences wing (EOW) of the city’s crime branch had arrested Dube and Ansari for their alleged involvement in the medical admission scam, but were yet to file a chargsheet in the case.

The Times of India, October 10, 2005

Friday, October 7, 2005

Hi-tech police station to fight cyber crime

POs, Financial Cos To Benefit

By Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Get set for a slice of hi-tech in city policing. Top guns in the Mumbai police are in the process of drafting plans for a cyber crime police station, which will soon be sent to the state government for approval. Once in place, the police station, which is modelled on the lines of the country’s first such station in Bangalore, will take on a host of cyber crimes from protecting Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to tackling financial terrorism.

Cyber crime in Mumbai is currently tackled by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC). Set up in December 2001, CCIC has a skeletal infrastructure—two PCs and 10 police personnel—and ‘assists’ local police stations in cyber crime cases. Officers of CCIC are not authorised to register cases and have to take prior permission for this. In contrast, the cyber crime police station will be a fullfledged hi-tech police station with a police strength of up to 150. It will have the authority to register cases on the spot.

A police officer from CCIC believes that IT companies are attracted to Bangalore because the city, with its cyber crime police station, affords them protection from increasing cyber crimes like hacking, cheating, credit card scams, data conversion frauds, internet time theft, virus/worm attacks, email bombing and so on.

“If our cyber crime police station is started soon, other multinational companies will definitely prefer to make Mumbai their base,’’ he says.

A two-member team from Mumbai was recently sent to study the Bangalore prototype and has submitted its report to the joint commissioner of police, crime, in Mumbai.

But the programme is yet to be finalised, says deputy
commissioner of police (Enforcement), Sanjay Apranti, who heads CCIC.

Bangalore’s cyber crime cell, which was in existence from 1999, was converted into a cyber crime police station in September 2001 with the sanction of then chief minister S M Krishna.
The CCPS, located at Palace Road in Bangalore, has jurisdiction in respect of all offences committed under The Information Technology Act, 2000 or offences relating to intellectual property rights.

According to Susand Mahapatra, IGP (Bangalore), cyber crime cases are exp l o d i n g and the

police station is getting cases every day. “The serious challenge is to tackle financial terrorism, stop money laundering and the internet flesh trade. Cases of intellectual property rights, hacking obscene emails, sending viruses are increasing with an alarming rate,’’ he says.

Internet guru Vijay Mukhi feels that cyber crime will explode in the near future, and a cyber crime police station, with specialised policemen in detection of cyber crimes, is de rigeur.

“Cyber crime is a specialised subject and we need specialised cyber policemen to tackle it,’’ he says. “In USA and UK, there are separate departments to tackle the offences related to computers.’’

The Times of India, October 7, 2005