While they have on their hands the difficult task of keeping terrorists at bay, the cops manning Sagari police station in Mahim spend a lot of their time and energy contending with an enemy of a different kind - mosquitoes.
Cops claim that the severe mosquito menace in their workplace has made it difficult for them to sit at their tables in the station every evening. Several officers and constables, including a senior police inspector, have been treated for vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria.
The Sagari police station was established after the 26/11 terror attacks, with cops reporting to it given the exclusive task of keeping an eye on the western coastline. Since its inception, the cops appointed for this task have been operating out of cramped quarters at the Mahim police colony behind Raheja Hospital. While they had been told that this was only a temporary space for them to operate out of, no new station has been provided to them in their five years on the job.
The station has always been too cramped for comfort, with only seven rooms for the 200 policemen reporting to the station. The officers are usually seen sitting outside the temple in the campus, or in their vans – a task that has become increasingly difficult, given the mosquito infestation.
“Around six constables had to be treated for malaria, as well as our Senior Police Inspector Arvind Patil. There is no proper infrastructure in place or any designated building for our station. We patrol the stretch from Gorai to Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade, and sit at Mahim. We have to go all the way to the police station in Mahim, and then report for duty at Badhwar Park, where we get into boats and start manning the sea,” said a police officer from the station.
Senior Police Inspector Patil, who joined the team on June 13, has been treated twice for malaria. “We have started burning mosquito coils and lighting bonfires in the evening, but still the mosquitoes are difficult to get rid of. They make it difficult for us to concentrate on our work,” said another officer attached to the station. SI Patil said, “We are doing our best with whatever resources are given to us.”
‘Blame the creek’
Local corporator, MNS member Shraddha Jadhav, who looks into the affairs of G-North Ward, Mahim, squarely put the blame on the creek nearby. “There is a creek in the area that makes it difficult to get rid of mosquitoes. Fogging is done every morning, but it is difficult to repeat this in the evenings. The residents of the Mahim police quarters face the same problem.”
Since the inception of the team to man the coast, it has been promised a new sea-facing building in Mahim, but the proposal has been pending, and several departments have objected to it, citing environmental regulations.
Blood-sucking parasites aren’t the only problem they have to deal with. The officers claim that some of their boats don’t work, and they do not have experienced drivers on-board to man the vessels. The officers believe that the task of manning the coast is the job of specialised agencies like the Navy or the Coast Guard, and that they are ill-equipped to deal with the task at hand. “I am completely aware of the problems faced by the staff sitting at the Sagari police station, and we are trying our best to push the proposal so that they get a new police station,” said Tanaji Ghadge, deputy commissioner of police, port zone.
It’s not just the cops who have a hard time tackling the problem - similar complaints have been pouring in from other residents who share the colony with the cops. “Our husbands work to save the people of the city, but there is nobody to save us from the mosquitoes. There is filth everywhere and neither the BMC, nor the local corporator or MLA are bothered about our plight,” said Smita Vaghulekar, wife of a police constable who stays in the Mahim police colony.
The residents have started fitting nets and meshes on their doors and windows. The residents who are unfortunate enough to inhabit quarters on the ground floor and the first floor cannot open the doors and windows to their homes after sundown. “If you ask our local doctor, you will realise the problems that the residents have been facing here. So many people have to get tested for malaria and dengue. We would like to use the ‘No vote’ option this time,” said Manasi Bhosale, another policeman’s wife.