“People tell us that having a police station in our housing society will make us feel secure. In reality, in such times, it makes us feel more vulnerable and afraid,” says Deepak Mhatre, a 68-year-old resident of Devratna Nagar Cooperative housing society. The society houses the Chunabhatti police station and is the only police station in Mumbai that operates out of a residential society. Mhatre and many other residents feel that with hundreds of people showing up at the police station every day, it has put them at risk in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Residents say as soon as the outbreak began, the society introduced stringent prevention measures for its own residents, including thermal scanning and use of hand sanitisers, compulsory.
However, they say many people who visit the police station from adjoining areas, including slum pockets, do not maintain social distancing and the same level of hygiene.
“Areas such as Lal Donger and Kasai Wada come under their jurisdiction. So, people from those areas, who are not as aware about hygiene, come to our building. We fear that if an infected person sneezes or touches anything while they are heading to the police station, our lives could be in danger,” Mhatre adds.
There are 12 buildings in the housing complex, of which five were bought by the Mumbai Police Commissioner in the early 2000s to accommodate police officials of different ranks. Later, owing to increasing crime in the area, some residents were asked to vacate and a new police station was introduced.
In 2010, residents had approached the Bombay High Court, which directed the Mumbai Police Commissionerate to move the police station out of the housing complex. Following this, Rs 2 crore was sanctioned by the state government to build a new police station near Priyadarshini Circle. However, the police station still exists in their housing society.
The residents add that there are over 485 flats, of which 185 flats are occupied by police personnel of different ranks.
“Keeping in mind that police personnel stay in our housing complex, we knew that despite the lockdown they will have to step out. So, we introduced thermal scanning of every person who enters and use of hand sanitiser. There are two assistant commissioners of police who stay in our building, so their car comes to drop them inside. We check the temperature of their drivers and operators as well,” says advocate Ravindra Pashte.
They say in order to avoid the infection, the entry of milkmen, servants and laundrymen has been banned. Even markets are being set up in the housing society, so that residents do not have to go to crowded areas to buy essential commodities.
“Lifts are operational only for two hours in the morning and evening, so that people do not think of going out,” Mhatre says.
Despite taking all necessary steps to keep people indoors, residents fear that several people who visit the police station daily will pass on the infection to someone staying in the building.
“The High Court had ordered a separate gate for the police station and despite allotting one, many including the patrolling police personnel, use the gate meant for residents. This further adds to the possibility of spreading the virus,” a resident says.
Residents further add that 10 days ago, they even met the senior inspector of Chunabhatti police station and raised their concerns. When contacted, Senior Inspector Maruti Jadhav of Chunabhatti police station refused to comment.
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