His detractors have over the years accorded many nicknames to assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Vasant Dhoble — Bar-raider Cop, Cop with a Hockey Stick, Oppressor of the Innocent Public, Public Enemy No 1, Mumbai’s Party Pooper, and even Hitler. Now, he has a new label, but one that he’s ostensibly proud of.
Yesterday, senior citizens from Santacruz felicitated the controversial cop with the Santacruz Ratna award. Overwhelmed by the gesture, Dhoble seemed to be in a pleasant frame of mind and even flashed a rare smile while delivering a speech, which was quite witty. People in large numbers had gathered inside and outside the venue to get a glimpse of the top cop.
The dedicated Dhoble, in fact, arrived late for his felicitation, as he was caught up in a major cleanup drive — held in cooperation with BMC — around 4 pm near Santacruz station. More than 100 illegal hawkers were removed by Dhoble who also confiscated several illegitimate goods. He reached Tholiya Bhavan about 5.30 pm for the 5 pm programme.
However, despite the delay he got a warm welcome as over 50 senior citizens got up to greet him when he entered the hall. Head of ‘Varishth Nagrik Seva Sangh’ Alok Tholiya said, “Dhoble has the courage to enforce law and order. He is not doing anything illegal; he is fearless. Every police officer can perform such actions if he wants to, but no one will come forward and cleanse society like he does.” Another senior citizen said, “Only after ACP Dhoble coming to our area did we actually realise that footpaths were meant for people to walk on.”
After being conferred the Santacruz Ratna award, Dhoble said, “In my 35 years of service I have been transferred 36 times, I have had 118 complaints lodged against me, I was suspended three times, I was even jailed in one of the cases. But still, I am standing in front of you today.” He added that senior citizens should register themselves at police stations and should be protected by the police, as this is their right. He also asked them to be on the alert for fake cops, often involved in chain snatching.
However, many senior citizens said they are concerned that Dhoble only has a few months left in his police service. Several of them expressed apprehensions that after his retirement the illegal hawkers and other anti-social elements the top cop has conscientiously evicted would come back. And no one would be able or willing to stop them.
On the job
Dhoble, who had hit the headlines for his crackdown against pubs and restaurants in the city, was transferred out of the social service branch of Mumbai Police in September. He is now the ACP at Vakola division in the western suburbs. In just 48 hours after assuming his new role Dhoble was in the thick of things – conducting raids and ‘cleansing’ sundry establishments. First on his itinerary was Vile Parle, which he patrolled with his new staff, raiding innumerable installations that fell on the way, many of them eateries and hotels. In just two hours he reportedly collected Rs 70,000 by way of fines. The next day he was in Vakola, overseeing bandobasts arranged at several places till late hours. He charged no less than five joints in Vakola for operating beyond the 11 pm deadline. Pan masala stalls, juice centres, chai shops, nothing escaped his gaze. All the joints were levied a fine of Rs 1,200 and let off. He also came down hard on subordinates who had dressed shabbily.