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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > How clean up marshals terrorise Vasai citizens

How clean-up marshals terrorise Vasai citizens

Updated on: 13 January,2024 05:14 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shirish Vaktania , Diwakar Sharma |

With the controversial vigilantes set to return to the city, their alleged thuggery in Vasai, Virar and Nalasopara does not inspire much confidence

How clean-up marshals terrorise Vasai citizens

Marshals stationed outside Virar railway station; a vigilante grabs a person by the neck outside Virar station. Pics/Hanif Patel

The clean-up marshals, set to be re-appointed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the financial capital, have been brazenly harassing and extorting people in neighbouring districts. Despite receiving multiple complaints, including in-house complaints from a senior health inspector, the authorities concerned have not taken any action against them.

The high-handedness of these marshals became evident when the mid-day team investigated their work style. They were found fearlessly ganging up near Vasai, Virar, and Nallasopara railway stations without wearing uniforms or carrying identity cards.

Marshal near the Nalasopara and Vasai sation; A marshal not wearing uniform taking victim to a secluded spot. Pics/Hanif PatelMarshal near the Nalasopara and Vasai sation; A marshal not wearing uniform taking victim to a secluded spot. Pics/Hanif Patel

The marshals were also observed roaming inside railway premises, searching for litterbugs and spitters. The rogue marshals were seen dragging individuals by their collars to secluded places, where local goons extort money. They even forcefully inserted their hands into victims’ pockets to snatch every penny. Any resistance was met with threats and verbal abuse under the guise of being clean-up marshals.

Local sources, including auto-rickshaw drivers and pan-shop owners, requesting anonymity, revealed that the marshals have also been thrashing spitters and litterbugs.

Another victim and activist,  Satish WarekarAnother victim and activist, Satish Warekar

The marshals were appointed by the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) in June 2023 to control sanitary nuisance and take punitive action against citizens for violating public space regulations.

In 2021, midday exposed BMC Marshals in Mumbai for extorting money during a mask drive. However, the marshals in Vasai Virar areas are now openly looting the public using the same modus operandi.

Rahul Singh, activistRahul Singh, activist

The mid-day team also discovered that these marshals were standing with a gang, beating and threatening innocent people to extort money outside Virar and Vasai Railway stations. Victims revealed that the marshals threatened to register FIRs, beat them, and forcefully checked their pockets and bank account balances on their mobile phones with the help of the gang. These marshal gangs even utilised the space of the police chowky outside Virar railway station to extort money ranging from Rs 200-1000.

Friday, 12 January

On Friday, January 12, the midday team observed the marshals outside Virar Railway station catching passengers who were exiting. They immediately caught anyone spitting or littering inside the railway premises, dragged the victims outside, and started threatening them near the police chowky. The marshals were also checking the pockets of the victims and also checking their bank accounts linked to their UPI IDs. If victims refused to pay, they threatened to call the police and arrest them.

Victim Abhishek Giri, a 27-year-old resident of Goregaon, shared his ordeal with midday. Giri, who spat inside the railway premises, was caught by the marshal without a uniform. “I was only having Rs 200 in my bank account. I came to Virar for AC repairing work, and for this, I will get Rs 300-400. This morning I ate only a Vadapav due to my financial condition being too low. When I was exiting the station area, I mistakenly spat due to the bad smell,” he said.

“One of the people immediately caught me who was not in uniform. He dragged me outside the station area where there was a police chowky. They told me I have to pay Rs 1000,” Giri added.

“They checked my pockets and found Rs 30. He told me that I have to pay at least Rs 400 or they will call the police,” he added.

“They checked my friend’s pocket. They didn’t find anything in his pocket. Later, they checked the bank account connected with the UPI ID. They forced me to transfer the Rs 200 I had in my bank account. I was crying and went to work. They also slapped me because I spat on the road. The police should take action against them,” victim Giri said.

Wednesday, January 10

On Wednesday, January 10, the mid-day team witnessed local goons extorting money from spitters and litterbugs near Vasai East railway station. Victims were forcefully dragged to secluded places, where their G-pay accounts were checked, bodies were frisked, and wallets were scanned to loot them in broad daylight.

A victim, requesting anonymity, said that he was forced to pay R1000 after littering the area with a wrapper. The marshals checked his money bag and e-wallet to extract money, threatening to assault him. “They were really very abusive and threatened to assault me. I got scared and paid them R400. This practice must end,” the victim said.

Another victim and activist, Satish Warekar from Nalasopara, said, “I was also caught by these marshals outside the Nalasopara East area. I threw a chocolate wrapper, and they demanded Rs 1000. I refused to give them, and later I found that they were also looting the vegetable vendors, fruit sellers, pan shops, and many shopkeepers. First, they don’t wear uniforms and don’t wear their ID cards. They keep goons with them to threaten people for extorting money. These marshals’ criminal histories should be checked, and both the police and VVMC should take action against them. Their gundagardi is increasing, and it should stop on an immediate basis.”

Activists speak

A social activist, advocate Rahul Singh, condemned the actions of the VVCMC-appointed marshals, emphasising that they not only extort money but also intimidate, assault, and abuse citizens.

“I have also learned that the company has deployed marshals without checking their criminal history or obtaining NOC from the local police station. Also, these marshals are not performing their work as per the agreement they signed with the VVCMC. I would request the local civic chief to terminate the contract of the company as common citizens are being harassed by these marshals who struggle to earn a few bucks which at the end of the day is either extorted or snatched by the goons roaming scot-free under the garb of marshals,” said Singh, who has also submitted his written complaint against the marshals to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in August last year.

VVCMC sources told mid-day that a senior health inspector had also written to the higher-ups to terminate the contracts of clean-up marshals, “because the marshals roam around the industrial estate and make demands for money,” said the civic source.

A criminal lawyer, Trivankumar Karnani, said, “The appointment of marshals by civic bodies, often contracted out to third parties, has raised concerns. There have been instances where contractors have hired individuals who act aggressively, abusing and assaulting citizens, and engaging in extortion, displaying a disregard for the law. These marshals are not authorised to perform police duties.”

“In Mumbai, similar issues of marshal’s misconduct led to a suspension of the program,” Karnani added.

“Additionally, before the reappointment of marshals, it’s important to know if the BMC will conduct thorough police verifications for these marshals and provide them with proper training to prevent any overstepping of their authorised roles. Will the BMC take the liability for any kind of misconduct, corruption, or criminal act committed by these marshals? The civic body must clarify the same before allowing goons under the garb of marshals to brazenly loot people in Mumbai,” Karnani added.
When contacted, VVCMC Commissioner Anil Pawar said, “Please submit your complaint in writing; we will investigate.”

Senior Inspector Sachin Ingavale of Vasai GRP said, “We will check the area and also check the CCTV footage of the area. If we find anything against these marshals extorting money from inside the railway premises area, then we will take action against them.” 

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