With no food, water, shelter, police aspirants march forth

Published: 01 December, 2011 07:41 IST | Bhupen Patel and Saurabh Vaktania |

The 3 lakh aspirants to 3,000 police jobs have been eating, sleeping and living in the open air. But that hasn't deterred these impoverished candidates from aspiring to be a constable in the Mumbai police

The 3 lakh aspirants to 3,000 police jobs have been eating, sleeping and living in the open air. But that hasn't deterred these impoverished candidates from aspiring to be a constable in the Mumbai police

Mumbai's footpaths, swarming with the homeless, have been forced to make place for more guests. As hundreds of young candidates, driven by dreams of donning a khaki uniform, pour into the city to bag a spot in the Mumbai police, the abysmal lack of essential amenities has forced them to stare the grating reality of the city -- scarcity, unaffordable cost of living, apathy from authorities -- in the face.

Burdened: Since the candidates can't afford accommodation, they lug
their baggage around all day.

After the physical endurance tests for 3,000 constabulary posts started on November 9, more than 3 lakh candidates from Yeole, Ahmednagar, Satara, Dhule, Latur, Bhusaval, Malegaon and other districts have been thronging the city, queuing up at the recruitment camps at police grounds in Kalina, Naigaon, Bhandup and Worli.

Motivated by need or ambition, the candidates are spending sleepless nights out in the streets, begging for drinking water, and eating at ad hoc food stalls in slums - the authorities have provided them with none of the above. In the absence of toilets, baths and other morning chores are a luxury they cannot afford.

Brush with destiny: Good morning, Mumbai? With no place to finish
their morning chores, the candidates ask for water from hutments and
do what they can with the meager quantity. Baths are, of course,
a luxury

But this is just half the ordeal. With just a few hours of rest and minimal food and water, these aspirants are put through the toughest physical tests, which include a 5 km run, long jumps and several other exacting tasks. Even before initiation into the force, the privations seem to have begun. 

Sleeping alfresco 
The department has divided the lot of 3 lakh applicants so that each day, around 3,000 candidates come to the city for various tests. But it appears that the temporary accommodation of such a large number was too troublesome, so they were left to fend for themselves.

Bending over backwards: Despite the hardships, the aspirants must
prepare for the rigorous physical tests that will land them a spot in the
Mumbai police department

"The Kalina police ground, where we are required to report for identity verification, is huge and can accommodate at least half of the lot. But the authorities have restricted the entry during night, citing security threat. Most of us who are appearing for the tests are extremely poor. We cannot afford lodging expenses," said a candidate who hails from Yeole district. The candidates who are accompanied by their parents, especially mothers, have no option but to sit and stay up through the night. 

Another candidate said, "In our states, when there are police vacancies, the department takes care of the candidates' basic requirements of food and stay. At times, local politicians step in to ensure that they are at ease. We have heard so much about the spirit of the city, but what we have seen doesn't add up to what we have heard."

Land of improvisation: Slum dwellers opposite the Kalina recruitment
campus have opened tea stalls to serve the needs of job aspirants who
cannot afford to eat at the city's pricey restaurants

No loo or water
There is just one public toilet for the 3,000 candidates, and it is located a kilometre away from the Kalina recruitment ground. When the candidates get thirsty, they have to beg for water from the slums opposite the police ground or depend on the mercy of do-gooders.

"As soon as we get up, we ask for water from the slums or the eateries and freshen up, but such a small quantity is not enough. We have to spend at least Rs 50-60 daily only on water. Earlier, some hotel owners gave us water for free but as the candidates started pouring in, they began charging us," said a candidate.

Under the open skies: With the muddy earth for a pillow, candidates
make a traffic island their bed

Dehydrated, many candidates complained of constipation throughout the day. "And then we have to appear for physical tests. How can you expect someone to be prepared for physical rigour in such a situation?" the candidate from Nashik said in an agitated tone.

The circumstances are more or less the same for the recruitment campuses at Naigaon, Bhandup, and Worli.

Locals spot the op
If there is an opportunity in this adversity, it is for the shanty dwellers opposite the Kalina ground, who have opened tea and food stalls to serve their and the candidates' needs.  "I realised that there is no cheap eatery nearby for these job aspirants. The food available in restaurants is too expensive. So I opened a stall for them," said Murgesh Devendra, a driver by profession.

Others slum dwellers have followed suit and opened snacks and juice centres outside their house.

Additional CP Brijesh Singh, who is in-charge of the police recruitment, said, "We have taken all the possible precautions and have given the candidates facilities of mobile toilets and drinking water on the ground which is within the purview of department. But pertaining to the facilities outside the ground, we are helpless."

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