How Mumbai cops are becoming a mean crime-fighting machine
Mumbai Police's now famous retort to Shobhaa De's fat-shaming tweet speaks of confidence acquired from quietly turning the force's fitness fate around
ACP Sanjay Kadam starts his day early at the gym, before heading to his office in Bandra West. Pic/RANE ASHISH
Right opposite Dongri police station, cut only by a turning road-strip, is a small ground that sees a flurry of activity every evening. Men in khakhi head out here post work, and engage in a few minutes of pushing and pulling under the dim street lighting, before finally calling it a day.
The open-air gymnasium was started 18 months ago. Until then, the vacant plot doubled up as a makeshift storage area for seized goods. But, with a fitness-conscious senior police inspector, Nitin Bangale, at the helm of affairs, the force had a slim chance of escaping a tough physical regime. When not manning his jurisdiction, Bangale goads his juniors to train with him. In 2015, when Sangram Balasaheb Kadam, a trained body-builder, joined as sub-inspector, Bangale found a willing partner to fuel this obsession. Together, they pump enough iron to put Salman Khan to shame. But, could that be said of the rest of the force serving in the 97 police stations within the city's jurisdiction?
Last month, after the Mumbai police fired back at author Shobhaa De for a tweet that fat-shamed a cop, whom she had incorrectly assumed was from Mumbai Police, the force made no pretence at hiding its disdain. Whether this confidence had anything to do with the healthy turnaround that they have witnessed of late, was what piqued our interest. What we learnt on our 'fit cop' trail was that Bajirao Singham and Chulbul Pandey aren't just figments of Bollywood's popular imagination. Some of them are right there in your nearby police thana. The success stories, however, weren't written overnight. They have been in the making for years.
Seasons of change
Mumbai Police historian Deepak Rao says it was Arvind Inamdar, who first introduced the rigours of exercise within the force as joint commissioner of police, crime, in 1987. Now, 77 years old, the retired Mumbai-based top cop, recalls, "Back in the 1980s, the gang wars in Mumbai were at their peak. To tackle them, we started the Special Operations Squad (SOS), with brand new weaponry. But, unless they were physically fit, they wouldn't be able to fight anyone. So, every morning, I would meet them and run with them for at least six kms." However, this fizzled out after five years.
While some health initiatives were revived years later under former CP MN Singh (2002), the noose around ill-health only tightened during the last decade, says Rao. "Unlike earlier, 80 per cent of the force takes fitness seriously. You don't see hawaldars or officers smoking on duty these days," says Chimaji Adhav, inspector, crime branch, Unit 11.
When the present CP, Datta Padsalgikar, took over the post on January 31, 2016, he was confronted with disturbing figures from the previous year's health report. Of the 163 policemen, who reportedly died in 2015, 30 per cent had suffered from heart-related ailments. Long-work hours, stress, and poor-eating habits, were leading contributors to the problem.
Work hours re-jigged
Within a few months of taking charge, Padsalgikar called for a meeting of all senior cops to discuss possible solutions to the problem.
Top on the to-do list was slashing work hours of constables, who form 80 per cent of the force, from 12 to eight. "The idea was to ensure that the constable gets enough time to spend with his family and also exercise. This would ultimately make him mentally and physically fit," said joint CP (Law & Order) Deven Bharti. However, the project is still a work in progress.
Eight months ago, the Mumbai police also launched a free health-check drive, which made it compulsory for every cop to get an annual medical test done.
Defining a cop's fitness
What makes for a fit cop? Someone who has "learnt to start his day with fruit and not chai," says nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, who has been working with the Mumbai police since 2016. Phase 1 of the Mumbai Police Welfare Project kicked off in October, in Zone IX wherein for over three months, she and her team visited all police stations on Tuesdays and Thursdays to conduct morning and evening sessions. Here, they would share inexpensive tips on diet and relaxation. They also tied up with gyms to help policemen get access to quality workout facilities. "They were reluctant at first — the eight chais a day didn't come down to two for everyone, but we got it down to five. The banana became the first meal of the day. As they observed positive changes in their body, they became more receptive," says Diwekar. The second phase of the programme will see her working with police representatives, in a more feedback-led module.
For holistic health professional Mickey Mehta, who continues to work closely with the Mumbai police, fitness in the force is more about mental resilience. "A cop who can clock in 15 hours a day and still has the energy to go on, is a fit cop. They, I feel, are more tenacious than their counterparts in Delhi and Haryana. The amount of pressure these guys can take is not funny," says Mehta, who conducted a training camp at Naigaon last year. The road to fitness, he says, is an uphill one for the police. There aren't enough training facilities, and maintaining a diet is a challenge. But, he rules out the need for gyms. "We don't want beefcakes. We are looking at resilient cops, not athletic ones. I recommend a desi workout — 21 minutes of dand baithak (push-ups/squats), stretching, naukasan (boat pose), chakrasan (wheel pose), dhanurasan (bow pose). They need more of military drills and agility training. For instance, I'd scatter potatoes on the ground and make them collect them in the least time possible."
While expert guidance is always at hand, the force too, has its own set of in-house experts. Inspector Sanjay Nikam, crime branch, was a fitness enthusiast even before joining the force in 2001. However, for him the need for mental strength trumps physical fitness. "When you don't have the opportunity to maintain a proper diet and get good rest, it is only your mental strength that keeps you going," says the 41-year-old, who set up a gym at the Wadala (East) police station, which was his first posting. "That gym is still used by policemen. Later, when I moved to Unit 4, I built one on the upper floor," says the inspector who would organise body-building competitions between 2001 and 2006, for the police force. Nikam's sustained efforts also inspired his seniors, who have followed his example and provided fitness equipment at their respective outposts.
DCP Dr Vinay Rathod enjoys the advantage of being a medical expert himself. "Having worked as a resident in one of Nagpur's busiest medical colleges has helped me deal with stress and pain. That comes handy when my staff approaches me for help. If someone has migraine or acidity, I'll recommend anulom vilom. The body's well-being impacts the mind and vice versa," says Rathod, who has run the half marathon for five years.
An endearing image
Sub-inspector Sangram, who grew up idolising Ashok Kamte, former additional CP, Mumbai police, still remembers the late cop toiling away at his gym in Kolhapur, during a brief posting there. Another popular role model is Himanshu Roy. ACP Sanjay Kadam says, "He changed how people perceived the police force. When he walked into the crowd, people scattered, not out of fear, but respect."
The ACP says that when a cop is fit, his confidence "increases by 100 per cent". "It boosts your morale," he says, adding that you begin to feel like a 'superhuman,' which changes how you handle work too.
Image consultant Rukhsana Eisa stresses on the importance of a smart-looking cop, because that has a direct impact on how the public perceives them. "Fitness will translate into confidence and that in turn will lend them a positive demea-nour while interacting with people. If they maintain a correct posture and a level of hygeine, it only adds to the overall image of a fit cop. This way, the feeling of negativity that people generally tend to associate with the police, will fade away."
ACP Sanjay Kadam starts his day early at the gym, before heading to his office in Bandra West. PIC/SHADAB KHAN
Sanjay Kadam, 56ACP, Bandra police division
I begin my day at 6 am with a glass of milk and four almonds. An hour later, I head to the gym. I become a child in the gym, working out for at least two hours. I do a combination of weights, cardio and functional exercises. If I had to give advice on staying healthy, I would suggest taking packed lunch from home. On most days, my dabba comprises four to five rotis and sabzi. I eat rice only on Sundays. I don't smoke, drink or have tea.
Mickey Mehta, holistic health professional
Mehta says, "A cop who can clock in 15 hours a day and still has the energy to go on, is a fit cop. Mumbai cops, I feel, are more tenacious than their counterparts in Delhi and Haryana. The amount of pressure these guys can take, is not funny." For tenacious cops, not beefcakes, he recommends a desi workout of dand baithaks and yoga asanas.
Rujuta Diwekar, nutritionist
Diwekar and her team have been working with the force since 2016, sharing inexpensive diet and fitness tips. She says making the banana the first bite of the day is a small victory.
Arvind Inamdar is believed to have introduced the rigours of exercise within the force as joint commis-sioner of police, crime, in 1987
Himanshu Roy, former ATS Maharashtra chief, says ACP Sanjay Kadam, changed how people perceived the police force with his image.
Sub-inspector Sangram Balasaheb Kadam often works out with his immediate boss, senior PI Nitin Bangale, at a gym near Dongri police station. Pic/SHADAB KHAN
Sangram Balasaheb Kadam, 29 Sub-inspector, Dongri Police Station
There's never a fixed schedule [for a police officer]. But, if I start work at 8 am, I wake up at 6.30 am. My diet is different because I am training to become a professional bodybuilder. I begin my day with six boiled eggs, one boiled sweet potato and oats soaked in water. I pack my own dabba. So, around 10 am, irrespective of where I am, I eat three boiled eggs, and a sweet potato. For lunch, I eat two chapatis and 300gm boiled chicken. This is followed by a cup of brown rice and 2 boiled eggs at 5 pm. At 9 pm, just before my workout, I have 3 boiled eggs again and mosambi juice, followed by a protein shake. Dinner is at around 12.30 and is the same as lunch.
DCP Vinay Rathod runs at least 15-20 km each week. Pic/BIPIN KOKATE
Dr Vinay Rathod DCP (Detection), Crime Branch
I joined Force 1 (a specialised counter terrorism unit) in 2011. For this, you need to undergo commando training for two months, where you run 25 km in full gear, while carrying 30 kg. I completed my training and then ran my first half marathon in 2011. Since then, running has become a part of life. I run three times a week and try to clock 15-20 km over seven days. As marathon season approaches, I increase the mileage to 17 km and then leave it at that. Also, while running the race, I am not keen on minimising time. I finish it comfortably in 2.5 hours. I intend to take my officers on regular treks as part of their physical training.
Inspector Chimaji Adhav swims twice a week to stay fit. Pic/NIMESH DAVE
Chimaji Adhav, 47 Inspector, Crime Branch, Unit 11
I wake up at 5.30 am and head out for a one-hour morning walk. I follow that with an hour in the gym in my housing society, where I do weights, skip-jumping and walk the treadmill. Twice a week, I swim. For breakfast, I have chapati-bhaji and do a light lunch if I get the time, which is usually three days a week. Else, I make do with a vada pao and bananas. For dinner, I have chapati-bhaji and one glass of milk.
Inspector Sanjay Nikam carries a mobile workout kit wherever he goes, so that he doesn’t miss a session
Sanjay Nikam, 41 Inspector, Crime Branch, Unit 4
I follow a seven-day workout rule because during a work week, you are bound to miss at least one day. My morning and evening workout schedule lasts from 6.30 to 8.30 am, and 20 minutes after 9 pm. In the morning I do cardio and weights. In the night, it's walking, running and lunges. I also carry a mobile workout kit, comprising extension, rollers and dip sets. That helps me maintain my schedule even when I'm on duty, especially out-station. I begin my day with 15 egg whites and a glass of protein shake, followed by a light lunch of three chapatis and bhaji (if possible). Between 4 and 5 pm, I have 100 grams of chicken. At 7 pm, I have a light snack with coffee. This is my last meal for the day. I only have a glass of warm water before going to bed.
Constable Sushant Mohite is professional body builder and continues to participate at events
Sushant Mohite, 30 Constable, LOCAL ARMS DIVISION, MAROL
I wake at 6 am, and eat an apple, three boiled egg whites, and brown bread or chapati. At 10 am, I eat two to three idlis, a banana and drink a glass of mosambi juice. If I don't manage to get my hands on this, I eat a sandwich without butter and potatoes. For lunch, I eat boiled chicken, chapatis and salad. Around 5 pm, I eat dry fruit, apple and some boiled eggs. Dinner is light with salad and fruit. I work out twice a day — 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 in the evening. I have struggled with my fitness, but a disciplined lifestyle has helped.
Mumbai CP Datta Padsalgikar on the slew of initiatives that have been taken to keep the city's police force fit
What prompted Mumbai police to put fitness of its priority list?
There are several factors behind this decision. A major one was disturbing facts about the deaths of policemen. Records showed that nearly 163 policemen died in 2015 due to health issues. Off these, 30% deaths were due to heart attacks, high BP and other heart related ailments. We studied these and subsequently came up with measures. Our efforts and initiatives are now yielding results with more cops taking fitness seriously.
What measures has the department taken?
The 8-hour duty for the constabulary is one. Soon, more than 60% police stations will follow an 8-hour duty. The next big measure is making it mandatory for all cops to undergo medical examinations annually. Several police gyms have been revamped. We roped in professionals like Dr Aditi Govitrikar who conducted workshops on stress management last year. And with help from Rujuta Diwekar, we are making our cops understand the importance of a right diet.
How does an 8-hours shift help?
An 8-hour duty reduces physical and mental stress. I must mention that after introducing an 8-hour system, absenteeism has dropped drastically.
You have also introduced foot patrolling.
The concept is simple. Foot patrolling serves two purposes. Policemen's presence will be visible in the area to prevent crime, and walking also keeps them fit.
Is it true that overweight cops are given office duties and not sent out on field?
No. Only those who are overweight due to medical problems are given administrative duties.
How do you encourage sports in the department?
We encourage our men to play volleyball in the police stations premises, but only stations with large compounds can afford this. We also arrange recreational days and hold cricket matches and other sports within the department.
How much money is being spent on the health of policemen?
I don't have figures with me, but I can confidently say that a sizeable amount is.
How do you keep track of the fitness level of cops?
We have recently started keeping a track through a digital system. We are digitising medical records too, but the system will take time to function effectively. Apart from that, officers of the ranks of additional commissioners and DCPs are given responsibility to review and take feedback in their regions on the plans, schemes, workshops, conducted and implemented regarding police health and fitness.
Till a few years ago, no insurance firm was ready to cover the police because of the poor medical history of the force. What is being done to address this?
We already have insurance facilities from Axis bank, and we have a few new plans for insurance.
How do you personally maintain fitness despite your busy schedule?
My profile demands starting the day very early, meeting visitors, attending departmental events and at the same time, coordinating with my officers on regular police functioning in the city. I push myself not to neglect my health.