Mumbai: Break-in at senior citizen's house, cops take no action for a month

Residents of the Girija Building in Khar, three of whose four flats are occupied by senior citizens, say the theft, in which the accused stayed in the house undetected for an hour, has scared them; the police inaction only worsened their fears

Residents of a Khar building have made a damning counterclaim to the Mumbai Police’s claims of ensuring the safety of senior citizens. The residents allege that despite their complaint to the Khar police and even the Police Commissioner about a thief burgling the house of a 73-year-old resident, no action was initiated by the cops, who allegedly did not even bother to file an FIR or conduct a probe for nearly a month.

Girija Bhavan in Khar
Girija Bhavan in Khar

The residents say the incident has shaken them because three of the two-storeyed building’s four flats are occupied by senior citizens and the thief had managed to stay in the house, undetected, for nearly an hour. It was only after mid-day called the police yesterday was an FIR registered in the case in the evening.

Harendra Upadhyaya with the letter, which was submitted to the Khar police station and sent to Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria
Harendra Upadhyaya with the letter, which was submitted to the Khar police station and sent to Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria

Harendra Upadhyaya (73), a former club cricketer and retired banker, who stays alone in a four-BHK flat on the ground floor of Girija Bhavan — located on 1st road, Khar — had gone to Panvel to stay with his friend for a few days in July. When he returned home in the afternoon on July 18, he found his door open.

Upadhyaya, who has played for Khar Gymkhana and is fondly called Kandli in cricketing circles, said, “I was shocked to see that my door was open and my house had been burgled. I realised that R7,500 in cash was missing from the drawer in one of the rooms a 5-6 kg bag of dry fruits was stolen from my refrigerator. The dry fruits had been sent by a friend who lives abroad.”

When they checked the CCTV footage, the residents realised that the thief had entered the house around 7.35 pm on July 17 and had left at 8.22 pm. Upadhyaya added, “I took the help of my landlord, Albert Talegawakar, who stays on the second floor.

Talegawakar, who is a solicitor and practises in the High Court, wrote a complaint letter outlining the incident and I submitted it to the Khar police station on July 20, but there was no response from them. A few days later, we sent the letter to Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, but there was still no action.”

What if?
Speaking to mid-day, Talegawakar said, “On the morning of July 18, I saw the door of Upadhyaya’s flat open, but I did not make much of it as he often keeps the door open when he’s home. When he came back from Panvel, however, I asked him about it and he told me about the theft.

I told my daughter and she checked the CCTV footage carefully. It showed that on July 17, around 7:35 pm, the accused entered the house by breaking the lock and was there till 8:22 pm.” He added, “Even after sending a letter to the Khar police and the Commissioner, no probe was conducted.

Not a single policeman visited the spot after the letter was submitted to the police by Upadhyaya. What if Upadhyaya had been home at the time? He would have probably been stabbed by the accused, as senior citizens often are. It is also a question of security as mostly senior citizens reside in this building. Police should have had the courtesy to at least visit the old man.”

Talegawkar’s wife, Joyce, told mid-day, “I am alone at home in the afternoons and usually go to sleep after lunch. But, after this incident, I am afraid of staying alone and even sleeping in the afternoon. We might be the next victims. Who knows?”

Nanji Gala, 79 and Sakarben Gala, 74, live on the first floor of the building with their son and daughter-in-law, Meenakshi. Speaking to mid-day, the daughter-in-law said, “This incident has scared us. Now, I make sure there is at least someone in the house at all times and my in-laws are not left alone. We have CCTV cameras, but no security guard as it is hard to trust them; the last time we had kept one, he used to sleep on duty.”

Dattatray Bhargude, Senior Inspector of Khar Police station, said “There are too many letters in the office and because of that, the letter in question may have been misplaced. Since you have brought the matter to my attention, I will immediately rush a team to the spot.” After mid-day spoke to the police, an FIR was finally registered in the case in the evening yesterday.

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