Mumbai Police on its toes after spate of letters threaten suicide, fratricide
Harassment by seniors and too much workload are the top reasons mentioned in the three letters in the past month; one of the letters was dismissed as a fake
Dark memories of the Vakola cop shooting his senior in cold blood last year have come back to haunt Mumbai Police, after a constable’s letter surfaced, threatening to repeat the episode because of ill-treatment by a senior inspector. This sent the force into overdrive, as they launched a manhunt to stop the cop from taking the extreme step.
Take a breather: A file picture of cops participating in a stress elimination programme at Bhoiwada.
To their dismay, the police learnt the letter had been signed under a fictitious name, and it was dismissed as an act of mischief. However, the issue of frustrated juniors remains a very real problem for the force, which has witnessed at least two other letters in the past month alone, in which cops stated they had no choice but to commit suicide to escape harassment from seniors or excess workload.
The third, and most recent, letter was the only one that had been signed. Constable Sadashiv Kale addressed the letter to the commissioner (mid-day has a copy), stating he was posted at a police station in the East region where his senior inspector was mentally harassing him.
The letter carries the date February 23 and in it, Kale claims that the senior PI does not allow him to take even a couple of days off from work, and does not allow him to avail of the mandatory 12 days of casual leave either. He also claimed that his senior yelled at him and insulted him in front of female colleagues for no reason and had threatened to transfer him to a police station far from his home.
Kale further stated that due to the unnecessary harassment, he and other constables at the police station were mentally stressed and had started consuming alcohol and other substances. Kale went to the extent of writing that he and the other constables were left with only two options – commit suicide or kill their senior like in the Vakola fratricide incident (see Related stories).
The letter was addressed to the CP but was never posted. Instead, a scan of the letter was forwarded on WhatsApp.
"This letter went viral on various WhatsApp groups of cops, and senior police officers also came across it. Immediately, concerned police officers of the said region were asked to trace the constable, but the result was unexpected. Police learnt there is no constable with the name Sadashiv Kale posted at the police station mentioned in the letter," said an officer.
Seniors drew the conclusion that someone had circulated the letter to make mischief. However, in the same month, DGP Pravin Dixit’s office received an anonymous letter in which a sub-inspector threatened to commit suicide if his hectic duty hours were not reduced. Following this letter, the DGP issued a circular to all the commissionerates in the state to take necessary measures to encourage junior policemen and provide a stress-free atmosphere for them. Senior police officers in Mumbai also launched a manhunt to trace the PSI to prevent him from committing suicide, but could not identify him.
A third anonymous letter was also addressed to the CP making similar complaints of harassment by seniors. All three letters are circulating on WhatsApp groups of policemen. Many officers believe that this slew of suicide letters points to the lack of a proper mechanism to redress the grievances of junior policemen. According to one sub-inspector, once a junior officer’s request is turned down by his senior, he does not dare to approach the higher authorities (ACP or DCP) thinking his senior will harass him if they learn about it. Since their grievances are not addressed, cops start getting frustrated and this frustration erupts in one way or the other.
Others pointed out that the very fact that the letters were being sent anonymously shows how scared the juniors are of retribution. However, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti said, "Anonymous letters are generated by mischievous elements."
May last year, the city’s police force was shocked after Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Dilip Shirke from Vakola police station shot his senior police inspector Vilas Joshi. The ASI was frustrated because of issues over leave. After he failed to turn up for duty one day, the senior marked him absent. The upset ASI fired four rounds at the senior and hid in his cabin for a while. Upon realising he had no way out, the ASI then turned the gun on himself.
Months later, in November, the Home department sent out a circular asking that all commissionerate offices across the state hold an open durbar for constables after many of them complained that they were being treated like domestic servants by officers, who asked them to carry out menial tasks like buying vegetables or ferrying their kids to school.
In the past police commissioners had announced a system of holding a ‘durbar’ where cops could air their grievances, but this practice is not very regular. However, Joint CP Bharti said, “We have a proper and elaborate grievance redressal mechanism. When DCPs or other senior officers visit police stations, policemen raise issues. They can also meet senior officers on any working day. Besides, DCP and Additional CPs organise durbars/sainik sammelans to sort out the problems.”