On his retirement from the Mumbai police, Vasant Dhoble, the face of moral policing in Mumbai, says he is free now, though he feels he has lost his powers. On Saturday, when his turn came to pick up the bouquet at the farewell ceremony, newly appointed Joint Commissioner Anup Singh asked him if it was the same Dhoble who was always talked about. At this, Dhoble could not suppress a smirk.
“Feels like I am going to be free today,” said the retired ACP, after having served 39 years in the force. “Will definitely miss the department (police) since I would have no powers to take action against illegal activities,” he added.
He was seated on the front row, at the ceremony that saw 427 other police personnel retiring. Dhoble was seen surrounded by people posing for photographs and taking selfies with him.
The 1978 batch police officer had studied to become a lawyer, when he decided to give his MPSC exams a shot, along with friends. “I cleared the exam and left the course halfway to join the force as a sub inspector,” Dhoble said.
In 2012, when he had headed the Social Service Branch of the police, he grabbed headlines after witnesses spoke of him conducting raids at eating joints, and pubs, often wielding a hockey stick and citing archaic rules.
With the backing of the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, he had raided a number of popular eateries, pubs and bars that stayed open past deadlines.
Dhoble, between April and June 2012, raided Amar juice center in Vile Parle West, Cafe Zoe in Lower Parel and restaurant Masala Curry in Andheri West, where he detained 11 women on the suspicion of being involved in sex racket. A fruit vendor in Santacruz East allegedly died of a heart attack in January 2013 while fleeing from Dhoble, who was then assistant commissioner of police. Dhoble was supervising a drive against hawkers when they fled in panic.
On Saturday, minutes before the ceremony began, Dhoble claimed he is relieved that his name has been cleared in the 108 cases registered against him.
“I leave without any blemishes or controversies,” he says. He says he will always remember November 23, 2014, as that was the day all the cases against him were closed. Another moment he would remember in his tenure, he says, was being reinstated after his dismissal.
He says though there were many highs in the probes he had conducted and in the roles in SSB and later in Missing Bureau he had played, what hurt him most was when he had written to the state government for a pending promotion after he was reinstated. “The government demoted me saying my last promotion 10 years ago was done wrongfully. That was when I realised how the administration functioned,” he said.
The last few months of his tenure was with the Missing Bureau. Dhoble claims he leaves like a “old man” with a new commitment. “There are more than 17,000 people on the missing list. I collected data and checked their records. 9,000 are still missing. I want to use technology and maybe track them down with the help of an NGO,” he says.
His recalls his first posting in the late seventies at Vikhroli police station. He says he observed that women trapped in red light areas were exploited. “I decided do something. I got an opportunity to do this when I was posted in the Social Service Branch. Making women secure was my main objective, and to rescue maximum women who are exploited. Unka koi hai nahin na (they don’t have anyone). I have rescued 1,300 women,” he says.
The cop known to enjoy his popularity, he speaks of over 4,000 calls and messages he received since Saturday morning. He reads out one text message, “An eagle would always be soaring in higher planes, but has to come down only for his prey.”
He was accompanied by his wife, his 31-year-old son who captured every moment of the event on camera, and his nephew. His son Kshitij says, “It feels good to see him retire. I will get an opportunity to do all the father-son activities.”
The officer says he would miss pillion riding on his bike —the hockey stick is still attached to his bike — with his “cowboy” hat on.
Accompanied by his family for the ceremony on Saturday, Dhoble left the Police Gymkhana at Marine Drive at 6:14 pm, heading for dinner. He had continued to deny, till his last hour as an officer, having ever owned a hockey stick, he is believed to have wielded during his raids. On Saturday, he said he was looking for good “hockey players” to hand over the hockey stick.