Mumbai: Quarrel with BMC plunges 100-year-old Nana Chowk traffic chowky in darkness

Jan 10, 2019, 07:30 IST | Hemal Ashar

Refusal to move out of a dilapidated structure has left traffic police personnel at a chowky in Nana Chowk fumbling in the dark, as BMC cuts off the power supply

Mumbai: Quarrel with BMC plunges 100-year-old Nana Chowk traffic chowky in darkness
Cops at the chowky work in darkness at night. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A police chowky at Nana Chowk is going through one of the most challenging phases in its century of existence. The 100-year-old chowky near the skywalk has been plunged into darkness for the past three months. The civic authorities at D ward (where Nana Chowk falls) and the police here are at loggerheads. The former want the cops to relocate to some newly made cabins around the corner, saying the chowky is on the dilapidated list.

The new cabins are a few metres ahead of the chowky. The police have obdurately refused to move to the alternative site claiming that the spot is notorious for flooding. As a result of the logjam, the electricity to the chowky has been cut off by the BMC, and cops have been functioning in the dark and without fans at this key SoBo spot for months now. The chowky is the proverbial stone's throw away from Gamdevi police station and located at the mouth of the Nana Chowk fire station.

Traffic constable Sachin Malusure works with the aid of light from a chargeable lamp because of the electricity cut at the Nana Chowk traffic chowky. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Traffic constable Sachin Malusure works with the aid of light from a chargeable lamp because of the electricity cut at the Nana Chowk traffic chowky. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Waterlogging
When we visited the chowky in the day, the fan inside was stationary. A policeman inside said wryly, "Right now, it is relatively cooler, so the lack of a fan is not a problem. We will swelter when it gets hotter. At least six of us are on duty at night." The police said they did not want to, "move to the alternative location because that area is totally flood prone. In the monsoon, we will have major problems, accessing these new traffic police cabins. It gets completely waterlogged."

A senior police official (traffic) endorsed his juniors' views saying, "We have not had electricity for months but are staying put. There are a number of problems in moving to the new site. First, there is the flooding, there are also a number of BMC vehicles always parked outside these cabins. There will be problems in parking towed vehicles too. Maybe our chowky can be repaired." The police say caustically that they will find it tough to access the new cabins during a Mumbai deluge. "We will find it very tough, and how will those who get fined come in? Swimming?" they asked angrily.

The new booths that have been made for the traffic cops
The new booths that have been made for the traffic cops

Repair fare
Locals say that the impasse is unacceptable and it is time this matter is resolved. Sanjay Shirke, an activist, said sarcastically, "I think this is the only city in the world where a traffic chowky has its electricity cut off. Our cops are on duty all night so that we can sleep safely, but they have to work in these abysmal conditions. It is important that authorities find a way out of this."

For Ramesh Mundada, 68, a citizen who also acts as traffic warden helping cops in the area, the key lies in, "repairs to the chowky. All it needs are bamboos to prop it up, and the flooring might need to be changed. It may be dilapidated as the BMC says, but it is certainly not going to cave in soon. Remember it is 100 years old and like we have seen, in Mumbai, it is the older buildings that are incredibly strong and have stood the test of time. It is certainly better than moving to the location BMC has proposed. It has vehicles parked outside, so there is no space for additional vehicles."

Ramesh Mundada inside the police chowky pointing to where bamboos need to be fixed and repairs are necessary
Ramesh Mundada inside the police chowky pointing to where bamboos need to be fixed and repairs are necessary

Danger zone
V P Mote, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, D Ward said, "The traffic chowky is dilapidated, yet the cops refused to move. We had no option but to cut off electricity. The location of the chowky also proves a hindrance to the fire brigade's vehicle movement. We have given them an alternative but they have dug in their heels and refuse to shift."

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When Mote was told that the cops say the alternative offered was susceptible to waterlogging, the top official said, "You yourself go and check whether the new cabins we have offered the cops have sunken in, or the chowky where they are refusing to move from has sunk a few metres into the ground." Mote claimed, "This chowky which surely must be at least 100- years-old belongs to us, the BMC. The police are simply and unreasonably refusing to move out." Both civic officials and the cops ended saying, "Talks have now escalated to a very senior level and hopefully, there should be a solution soon."

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