Wife, four-year-old sit on a hunger strike to protest against harassment of lower rank personnel and paid postings
Samrudhi Patil looks famished but determined. The four-year-old and her mother, Yashashree, are the new face of pent-up anger and frustration in the police fraternity. The two began an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan on Wednesday to protest alleged harassment of lower rank personnel and corruption in the police department.
Yashashree and Samrudhi Patil dig their heels in against rank corruption at Azad Maidan. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The Patils decided enough was enough after “unearthing a corruption scam” in postings.
Yashashree’s husband and constable in the Sahar traffic police department, Pramod Patil, joined the Mumbai police in 2005 and was posted at the DN Nagar traffic department. He was transferred to the Malabar Hill traffic division last year, a deputation that flouted the rule book, claims the 33-year-old constable.
“We live in the Marol police quarters in Andheri East. Police personnel are posted near their houses or along the same line, like western or eastern or northern. A committee is mandated to review each posting.”
Refusing to take it lying down, Patil filed an RTI application in the department and stumbled upon a “corruption scam” — given the right cost, all dream postings were up for grabs. “I was immediately transferred from the Malabar Hill traffic division to the Sahar traffic division,” he says.
He then allegedly faced relentless harassment within the ranks. “I was taunted by my own staff and seniors. They called me Anna Hazare for taking up a fight against corruption,” says Patil.
One pressure tactic after another allegedly mounted. His salary was cut for five days when he, in fact, took leave for just a day last November, claims Patil. “I was subjected to a lot of harassment from the ACP, DCP and other higher officials. I was also given different duties all the time.”
Yashashree said her hunger strike is a voice against such harassment. The family on Wednesday met Commissioner of Police Dattatray Padsalgikar, who assured them of addressing their concerns. “We believe in him.
But the problem is in the system within the department. When the common man has a problem, he goes to the police. Whom will the police go to when they face problems?” asks Yashashree. The family wants the CM’s intervention.
“I want more people, especially the wives of other police personnel, to come out and support us,” says Yashashree.
The family, whose sit-in goes on from 9 am to 6 pm, is sporting placards of police personnel who died in the 26/11 attacks as well as fighting Naxals. Patil is not allowed to sit in on the strike, but has taken leave to accompany his family.
Support has begun to pour in. Many constables have visited the family to extend their support to the protest, but have refused to come on record for fear of repercussions. “The family has taken a brave step. I don’t have the courage to speak out [against poor treatment of police constables],” says a constable.
Another constable suggests that lower rank police personnel be allowed to form unions, as is the case with IPS officers. “We should be given a platform to raise our voices.”