It has been two days in a row that Prof Laxman Kamble has had to wait outside the Mumbai Police headquarters to get an essential services pass to move his father to Kolhapur.
His father, who has to undergo dialysis, is facing difficulty in using the common toilet, located nearly 200 metres from Kamble’s residence at a chawl in Ghatkopar (East). “Two people have to carry him to the toilet,” Kamble said.
Their Kolhapur residence has an attached bathroom that will be safer and more convenient for his father, who came to Mumbai to undergo treatment for his kidney ailment.
“Yesterday (April 10), I submitted an application seeking permission for six people, including a driver, which was rejected. Today (April 11), I have come with an application for four people,” he said, as he waited for his turn on the fifth floor of the new police commissioner building on Saturday.
Kamble’s case is in stark contrast to the ease with which the Wadhawan brothers ― Kapil and Dheeraj ― managed to get police permission to move from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar without even having to approach the police. The brothers have been on the run since being named as accused in a multicrore scam connected to Yes Bank.
The brothers received an authority letter from IPS officer Amitabh Gupta, who described them as “family friends” and granted them permission to travel with a cavalcade of five cars carrying 23 people, including family members and a retinue of domestic help. Gupta is now on forced leave following the controversy over the permission to the Wadhawans.
According to rules, those who want to travel within the city can approach the local police station, while those who want to move across the state or cross state borders in cases of emergency have to approach the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Pranaya Ashok.
“Eight out of 10 cases are rejected,” Ashok told The Indian Express. “In order to ensure that the lockdown is a success, we have to screen every application carefully and ensure that only essential cases get permission.”
Another staffer from the department said in some cases, even after the Mumbai Police provides the essential services pass, the superintendent of police in a particular district might not allow entry. “They say hamara district bhi kharaab karenge (you will spoil our district as well). Given that there is a high number of cases from Mumbai, other districts, especially those with lower number of cases, aren’t keen on allowing entry to anyone coming from Mumbai. So, even police permission is no guarantee,” the staff member added.
According to an estimate, the Mumbai Police headquarters has received anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 applications seeking “essential” passes. “A lot of these cases are of those who are from another place but got stuck in the city due to the lockdown. Now that the number of cases in the city are on the rise, they are keen to go back to their village,” Ashok said.
Police have granted permission to those travelling for funerals, but only if they have produced a death certificate.
“Even in this case, we have to check if the person has died due to COVID-19,” the officer said, adding that permission was not granted for such deaths.
In cases of medical emergencies, police check if the person is the sole family member. “If a person has other family members to look after the person suffering from a medical issue, we have to deny permission,” an official said.
Two staffers, including the staff driver of Ashok, sit outside his cabin as they are bombarded with calls on the helpline (22081680) seeking directions to apply for an essential services pass.
“They just get up to have lunch. The rest of the time, they are constantly on the phone,” a staff member said. Apart from calls, the staffer said, there were “lakhs” of emails (email@example.com) with applications.
Also waiting outside the commissioner’s office was Ravindra Patil. “My family stays in Sreevardhan and I keep coming to Nair hospital for treatment for a health complication. This time around, I am stuck here and my father who is above 75 years old, is stuck alone at our house. For how many days will our neighbours feed him?” he asked.
He added, “We have submitted the application. The staff said we may receive the call today as well. We cannot come from Andheri (where they are staying at present) to South Mumbai every day. We will wait till the end of the day.”
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