When Home Minister RR Patil asked the police to make the safety of senior citizens a priority last month, surprised members of this oft-ignored section of society were quick to hail him as their saviour, showering their praise and blessings on the NCP leader. But going by the recent ordeal faced by an aged couple, they cheered way too soon.
When 64-year-old Sushila Agrawal’s chain was snatched, she had the presence of mind to find out the licence plate number of the snatcher’s vehicle from witnesses. She acted fast, reaching the station with her husband within minutes of the crime. The cops, however, fell lamentably short of matching the elderly woman’s alacrity. Not only did they kept the couple waiting for two hours without bothering to enquire about the nature of their complaint, they also tried to convince them not to lodge an FIR.
On March 24, Sushila was on her way home from a nearby temple in Borivli around 10.10 pm when a biker tried to yank off her gold chain. “The biker snatched my chain from behind. As soon as I realised what was happening, I tried holding on to the chain. He pulled at it, and a part of it remained in my hand. My husband shouted out but the biker was quick and fled from the site. We were barely 50 metres away from the MHB police station and reached the station within the next 10 minutes,” she said.
But the loss of the precious chain was just the beginning of a prolonged and harrowing experience. “It was night, and not a single officer at the station asked us what our problem was. After half an hour, my wife went up to them and requested them to at least ask us about her problem. It was only then that a staff-member came up and asked what had happened. He took us to the first floor where he wrote all details in a ruled full-scape book,” said 66-year-old Rameshchandra Agrawal, Sushila’s husband. He added, “The police were very negligent and even after we gave them the bike number, they didn’t respond.”
After the cop had written down all the details, the couple asked for a copy of the FIR. Asked to provide the victims with the FIR number and copy, the police staff present there remained silent and started exchanging uncomfortable glances. One of the staff members who was not in uniform allegedly took the couple to the staircase and tried to convince them not to lodge a formal complaint.
“They tried to convince us of the disadvantages of lodging an FIR, citing legal hassles and possible harassment. They promised us that they would return our chain within eight days. After sitting in the police station for nearly two hours, we decided to go home around 12.30 am,” said Sushila, adding, “I just want to ask R R Patil, is this the order he gave to cops about senior citizens?” She added that though she would eventually come to terms with the loss of her gold chain, she is having difficulty coming to terms with the behaviour meted out to her by the police that night. Rameshchandra revealed that the incident has scarred Sushila so deeply that she hasn’t yet mustered the courage to step out of her home.
Top cop’s promise
Sunil Paraskar, additional commissioner of police, zone XI, said, “This is the first duty of the staff to attend to and register the complaint of any complainant, especially if they are senior citizens. I will enquire into the matter and if any officer is proven guilty, strict action will be taken against the officer on duty and the staff involved in this incident.”
Only for show?
The shocking episode comes close on the heels of RR Patil’s recent visit to senior citizens in Thane, where he had enquired about the frequency of policemen’s visits, and their promptness in responding to calls made to the local police station. He had also publicly directed staff of police stations to visit senior citizens in their jurisdictions every month and address their grievances on safety and security issues. The unexpected gesture had won him admirers among the senior residents of the state.
The Other Side
Suresh Babu Kilje, senior inspector at MHB police station said, “I was not aware of the matter but I will immediately call the Agrawal couple and file their complaint.” Repeated attempts were made to contact R R Patil, but in vain.
Home Minister R R Patil visited senior citizens, enquiring about the frequency of policemen’s visits, and their response to calls made to the station