There’s an unusual campaign that’s picking up pace from Bandra to Kandivli: to get back Vasant Dhoble.
The assistant commissioner of police was unceremoniously transferred to the police main control room to allow a ‘clean’ CID probe into the death of a hawker in Santa Cruz last Friday following an anti-hawker drive led by him.
Citizens’ groups, ALMs (advanced locality managements) and civic activists in the western suburbs who want an end to the hawker menace stepped up their protest against the “rash and wrongful” decision to transfer him by starting a signature campaign near the Parleshwar temple at Vile Parle on Monday. Over 600 people gathered to show their support for Dhoble.
Several activists and residents allege that Dhoble is paying the price for being dedicated to his job. “Each time an officer is found doing his duty well, he is trapped and singled out. He is victimised and humiliated,” claims civic activist Aftab Siddique. “Instead of taking to the roads, civic activists and residents associations have decided to take up a signature campaign as a systematic protest against Dhoble’s transfer. We will not let this happen again.”
Nitin Digholkar, one of the coordinators of the campaign, suspects that the transfer was politically-influenced and that authorities were pressured into taking the transfer decision. “Linking the hawker’s death to Dhoble’s action (raid) is not right. He conducted the drive to free roads of illegal hawkers. In the past, too, he had ensured safety and security in the area.”
He says the campaigners will hand over a letter and the signatures to joint commissioner (law and order) Sadanand Date.
Chaya Sandge, a resident of Vile Parle, complains that hawkers had made locals’ lives “miserable”. “Dhoble was only trying to serve the public. It shouldn’t have backfired on him like this. He has been very pro-active and residents were quite happy with his style of functioning. Night patrolling had also been beefed up during his tenure. So, women felt safer.”
Prakash Deshpande, another resident, agrees. “Hawkers had not only taken over the footpaths, but also most of the roads, leaving little space for vehicles to ply. We had no space to walk.”
He echoes many locals’ fear that with Dhoble being shunted out, hawkers may return in a few days.
Shubada Patkar, councillor of Vile Parle (E), warns that such actions again police personnel “will only demoralise the police force”. “Now, they will think twice before taking pro-active steps for the betterment of society.”
Dhoble’s supporters claim that they will continue with their protest until Dhoble is reinstated, and if needed, take the signature campaign to schools and colleges as well as hold a big rally soon.