Standing since 1958, the Wadala police station trembles each time a heavy vehicle passes it. Situated at the junction of Korba Mithagar Road and Container Road in central Mumbai’s Mumbai Port Trust area, the single-storey structure that houses 15 rooms has a series of ominous looking cracks on its walls.
According to officers, before the ground floor walls were painted pink last year, somebody quietly removed a BMC notice pasted on the wall, warning that the structure is in a dilapidated condition. In fact, many officers who were given accommodation in the quarters just behind the police station chose not to live there, fearing the poor condition of the structure.
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But the more pressing problem for the 100 policemen and women posted here is the toilet block at the far right end of the police station, which is used by staffers and visitors. To reach the urinals and the sink that doesn’t have a tap, people have to step carefully on tiles placed on a swampy patch that has a green slick on top formed by years of absent drainage. A swarm of mosquitoes flies around the muck.
Officers mention cases where accused brought to the Wadala police have tried to flee under the pretext of going to the bathroom. “We have to wait at the entry, at the edge of the muck. There have been some failed attempts by accused who try to flee by running on the muck and jumping over the wall. But that only leads to the police quarters,” a senior officer says.
There is just one toilet at the end of a corridor meant for women, though not used exclusively so. The stench from the toilet is unbearable.
The premises is home to dozens of pigeons that fly in and out, nesting in various corners. In the storage room that houses the armory and old case documents, officers admit some files are bitten by rodents.
One of the rooms used by policewomen had to be closed seven months ago, during monsoon, when a discharge pipe under the rooms burst. For a few days, working conditions for women officers in the room were terrible, before they were all shifted to other rooms.
Since there are no lock-ups at the police station, the accused are taken to the Matunga police station for their police custody. Sayajirao Fadtare, senior police inspector, says the BMC ordered them, nearly three years ago, to vacate the shaky premises, but no alternative was provided by the government.
‘Maintenance of a lot of our buildings is with bodies like the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). As far as basic necessities like toilets and changing rooms are concerned, time and again we have discussed proposals to erect structures on police station premises. A lot of such proposals are pending. Availability of land is another issue’.
DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni
Mumbai Police spokesperson
‘Police stations that were built on private land at the time of their inception suffer the most, as there is no funding available for maintenance or repair work in such conditions. Sometimes, land owners start demanding the land back, but to shift an entire police station you have to have land available within the jurisdiction of the police station. On the other hand, police stations built on their own land are old structures with space constraints and limited scope to add structures’
DCP Vinay Rathod
‘Having a good police station requires a concerted effort on the part of all the stakeholders. One important thing is to ensure that all required facilities are included in the planning stage itself. Besides, many police stations are running in makeshift structures. Police stations are at the bottom of the government’’s list of priorities and this mindset needs to change’
K Subramaniam Retired
Director General of Police (retd)