In Focus

Traffic Police Risk Life To Ensure All Stay On Track

The war seems upon us and the enemy is in no mood to relent. Even as most of us wear masks, stay indoors and safe, there are a few who brave the storm and risk all for us, at these times. The Draft Colaba in its ‘Unsung Warriors’ series goes beyond the usual Corona Warriors to pays a tribute to the few unsung others, each fighting personal battles and winning…all for us.
Here goes the fifth of the series Unsung Warriors: The Traffic Police!

ON THEIR MARKS: Traffic Police personnel (representational image)
“I haven’t been able to pick up my five-year-old Durvankur and hold him in my arms for months now. And, that’s the worst thing that happened to me during this lockdown,” says an emotional traffic police constable Alpesh Patil, who works in Colaba Traffic Division but travels all the way from Kalyan daily by train. His exemplifies the situation endured by his colleagues working round the clock on the streets of Colaba.

As he stands at Sassoon Docks, slowing down an elderly scooterist with his wife seated behind, he yells out, “pakad nahin raha hun, sirf ruka raha hoon.” And, as the couple stop to speak with him, he hears them out patiently before letting them go. “Local hai, bazaar leneko nikle the. Samaan akele nahin utha paate husband, isliye wife ko pillion bithake ja rahe the,” he says.

TOGETHER: Traffic Constable Alpesh Patil with wife Daminee and son Durvankur before the lockdown
Even the traffic police seem to understand the public’s predicament during these trying times. Mr Patil, for one, stops motorists who appear to be sauntering about without reason and tells them to stay indoors and lets them off with a warning. This, all day, till it is 9 pm after which a curfew sets in and all traffic unless on essential service, is stopped and vehicles impounded.

Dadar-based colleague and traffic police constable Rahul Sagar who has been with the traffic department for the last three years too has similar role to play. Back home, he stays away from eight-year-old daughter Kavya who insists he doesn’t go to work. But, “kya karein, duty pe jaana to hoga hi,” says Mr Sagar.

DUTY BOUND: Constables Alpesh Patil (left) and Rahul Sagar on duty at Sassoon Docks, Colaba
From an earlier 12-hour duty daily when the cases were rising to a 12-hour duty followed by a 24-hour break, the shift for traffic police personnel has now been eased out to a regular eight-hour daily duty. Contrary to popular perception, the local traffic police are a deeply sensitised lot. While they clamp down heavily on violators and mischief mongers, they are very accommodative when it comes to genuine persons.

Like the time a man had to travel with his wife as pillion on a two-wheeler when the rules, if enforced strictly, would entail his vehicle being impounded. “He was taking his wife to the hospital where his sister had delivered a child. He even got the hospital documents procured through WhatsApp to show us and we let him go, seeing his genuine situation,” says Mr Sagar.

HANDS-ON: Colaba Traffic Division Senior Police Inspector Mubarak Shaikh leads the way
None of this would not be possible without Colaba Traffic Division Senior Police Inspector Mubarak Shaikh's hands-on treatment on issues affecting her staff and zone. Keeping her staff together, on their toes and working at optimum, despite having registered six Corona-Positive cases within her team, Ms Shaikh’s work has been exemplary to say the least. Right from motivating her team to performing with an iron hand and dollops of empathy, Ms Shaikh’s role in the management of traffic in Colaba Traffic Division, assistance to local police and the subsequent enforcement of law and order has been praiseworthy.
“Earlier, I was posted at the traffic control room but have now been working on the streets and understand that the situation at grassroots is very tough,” says traffic police constable Vikas Sonawane. “Residents have to be very careful in these times. While all of us do understand the need to be safe and stay indoors, we do understand that people need to venture out to work too. The law must, however, not be broken at any time,” he says.

ADVOCATING SAFETY: Vikas Sonawane on duty
In his 27 years of service, traffic police constable Sandip Patil, who travels from Panvel to attend to his second shift from 3 pm to 11 pm, has never faced such a trying situation. “Till nine pm, we warn motorists to stay off the road unnecessarily and once it turns 9 pm and the curfew falls in place, we have to ensure the roads are empty as a rule, except for essential services who need to ply,” he says.

“The risks to the police force on field are huge. We sometimes need to touch driving licenses, documents, vehicles, even physically stop violators but what to do. It’s all part of our duty,” adds Mr Patil accompanied by colleague police constable Jagdish Kosankar who travels from home at Badlapur till Colaba daily too.

TEAMING UP: Constables Jagdish Kosankar (left) and Sandip Patil make sure violators are nabbed
Traffic Police Naik Anil Kumar Sanas travelled daily, all the way from Juinagar in New Bombay, on his motorcycle to work at Colaba. "During the lockdown when the cases were on the rise, I would start from home at 6.30 am and reach Colaba at 8 am for the first shift. I would work for a full 12 hour duty till 8 pm before leaving for home," says Mr Sanas. The shift has now been reduced to a regular eight-hour one.

The ordeal that continued relentlessly for over two months left him with a sore back and, only after the lockdown ended, did Mr Sanas proceed on leave. Quarantined from his wife Sadhana and 15-year-old Aarya, even at home, even in the fortnight he was away from work, Mr Sanas is now back on duty and with a smile. And, stays quarantined now from his family, per force.

BACK-BREAKING EFFORT: Traffic Police Naik Anil Kumar Sanas worked on a 12 hour shift during the lockdown
Each time, 11-year-old son Parth asks his father, “when can I go out to play?” his father’s heart breaks. After all, stopping a child for months on end from doing something as simple as playing is indeed heart breaking. Thousands across the city would empathise with Worli-based Police Naik Sushil Kadam’s predicament.

“He calls me twice a day, without fail,” says Mr Kadam, his voice choking with emotion. Once home, he makes it a point to stay physically away from his family, he has been eating separately and sleeping alone in the hall, now for four months at a stretch. “In my 21 years of service, things were never as difficult,” he says, referring to his new-found ‘mandatory need’ to stay away from family, just to keep them safe.

DUTY DILIGENT: Police Naiks Yogesh More (left) and Sushil Kadam heading home after work
“My Grishma who is in Senior KG pleads with me every day not to go to work,” says Police Naik Yogesh More who travels from Chembur to Colaba every day. “It breaks my heart to stay away from her and my older one, Mugdha studying in Standard Six, every day. But, I have to, in order to keep them safe,” he says. So, once he reaches home by 11.45 pm every day, it’s a long and loving gaze that he must contend with, at least while on duty.

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