Over 50 bunkers were erected by the Mumbai police outside police stations and next to railway stations after the 26/11-terrorist attacks. The rationale? They could be used by cops to take positions and fire back at terrorists during an attack and by citizens to take cover against gunfire.
But a few years down the line people have found a different use for most of these bunkers some are being used to store vegetables, while others have become garbage dumps. SUNDAY MiD DAY went on a random check, and found that many of these bunkers are being used to store products belonging to hawkers. The bunkers at Mulund, Kurla and Borivli especially have been turned into garbage bins, vegetable storage vats and even temporary urinals.
In Borivli, a bunker located outside the Gora Gandhi restaurant is being used as a storage house by hawkers. Another bunker outside Borivli police station is used by hawkers and the Chikuwadi bunker is filled with garbage. The police bunker at the Mulund check-post, is filled with garbage and people even use it as a urinal. Another one at Kurla station is painted red, but the walls have developed big cracks.
When told about the shocking condition of the supposed safe houses in case of terrorist attacks, former Mumbai police commissioner MN Singh said, “I don’t know why the bunkers were built in the first place. There is no need for them. An attack can take place anywhere and not just outside police stations or near railway stations. And if they are being misused, strict actions should be taken.”
Strangely, the city’s police force seems to be aware about this problem, but don’t have a solution for it. Sadanand Date, Joint Commissioner of police (law and order) told SMD, “I don’t know exactly how many bunkers we erected and the expenditure incurred. But the logic behind constructing bunkers was to save lives and to give the police a place to take up position in case of a terror attack.”
He further added, “If the condition of bunkers is not proper and if it is necessary to keep the bunker at a particular place, we will look after its maintenance and repair. If it’s been used for wrong purposes we will correct it. And if it’s not necessary we will break it.”
But citizens are obviously not amused. Vijay Sanghvi, an acitivist based in Borivli, said, “Are we ready to face and tackle any terrorist attacks? And are these bunkers strong enough to withstand machine gun fire? “These walls are not even plastered and cracks have appeared on them. Beggars and hawkers are residing in them. They should be maintained and rebuilt instead of being neglected.”
Others too said these bunkers are being misused and are serving no purpose. Aishwarya Kawle, a resident of Mulund, said, “The bunkers are being misused. The place is filled with garbage and waste and it is more of a nuisance.”
YP Singh advocate and former IPS officer thinks that legal action should be taken against hawkers and this issue should not be neglected. “Police can take action against the hawkers. Even the BMC can look into the matter and file a case against them. And if police is aware about this and not taking any steps, then senior officials can take action,” said Singh.