Mumbai Police’s plan to allow citizens to register complaints with the force has flopped miserably. In October, the police department had installed 1,000 complaint boxes all over the city to enable people to put in their complaints easily. Most of these boxes have been stolen by drug addicts.
Mumbai Police, in the presence of the state home minister R R Patil, guardian minister of the city Jayant Patil, MNS MLA Nitin Sardesai and Dr Satyapal Singh, the commissioner of Mumbai police, had handed over around 1,000 complaint boxes to the 96 police stations in the city at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi, Dadar in October 2012.
The boxes were installed at various schools, colleges, hospitals, corporate offices with an aim to provide an easy way to reach the authorities. “The aim was that anybody could drop her/his complaint in the box. In fact, it could also be against the police. Special Branch officers were to open the boxes and collect the letters, so that it could be investigated by the police,” said a police officer from the Dadar police station.
Today, the SB has no such duty, as most of the boxes are gone. Surprisingly, the ones installed near police stations and beat chowkies are also missing.This correspondent checked on the status of several boxes in the city. At C P Tank in Girgaum, the complaint box broken. At KPB Hinduja College in Charni Road, it was missing. Same was the case with units at several other institutes in the city namely, Welingkar Insitute of Management (Matunga), Ramnarian Ruia College (Matunga), Wilson College (Girgaum), R D National College (Bandra), V G Vaze College (Mulund), KEM Hospital (Parel).
“The boxes were made of fibre and were very weak. SB used to open them, but they stopped doing so within two months of the boxes being placed. The keys were handed over to the local deputy commissioner of police (DCP), but the local police station never got the keys. In the end, the boxes just gathered dust and were later stolen by drug addicts, who broke them off the walls, as the units were very weak,” said another police officer.
The Special Branch clarified that they didn’t have adequate manpower to look after boxes all over the city, and hence, had transferred the duties to the local DCPs.
“Due to lack of manpower, we had informed Commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh that we wouldn’t be able to carry out the work of removing the letters from the complaint boxes. Hence, we gave the keys to the local DCP,” said Sanjay Shintre, deputy commissioner of police, Special Branch. The Home Minister himself had announced that if the complaint boxes project succeeded in the city, he planned to take it to other cities. “How can one take such projects to another city if they are not succeeding in one city itself? The fibre used in such boxes was of such low quality. The distribution of the complaint boxes was just a photo opportunity for all the senior cabinet ministers and the commissioner of police,” said a senior officer from the Mumbai police.
Gaurav Patel, who works near Hinduja College, said, “I saw the box at the college gate for about a month. I have no clue where it disappeared after that. Harassment cases often take place outside colleges. It was great that students, especially girls, could lodge anonymous complaints. But now there is no box to do so.” Anandani Thakoor, social worker and activist from the Bandra-Khar-Santacruz area, called for the police to maintain the boxes. “It’s very good that someone can lodge a complaint without revealing his/her name. They should maintain the complaint boxes.”
The other side
Assistant Commissioner of Police and Mumbai police spokesperson Bhagwan Chate claimed that none of the complaint boxes were stolen and they were all intact. Commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh himself was unavailable for comments, despite several calls and messages.