Six feet tall, well-built, ever smiling and composed but some love and some hate him; he is a Mumbai Police Officer ACP Vasant Dhoble. He became a known personality for his style of functioning as the ACP of the Social Services Branch. He was criticised by some, acting as an extra-constitutional authority or acting as the “Moral Police”. He was the head of Mumbai Police’s Social Service branch, and has been in the news of late due to his frequent raids on the city’s bars and pubs. In spite of ban on bar dancers, many illegal activities were carried on in bars. In 2005, the Mumbai Police had banned dance performances in bars but cleared them for “elite establishments” and hotels that were of three-star standard and above.
Then Home Minister RR Patil banned the dance bars as he believed that bars culture is corrupting the youth and spoiling the families. Vasant Dhoble earned notoriety by raiding pubs and nightclubs and slapping outdated laws against them. He was also caught on CCTV wielding a hockey stick against the owner of an illegal eatery. There were those who supported him and saw him as an honest officer. However, after one section of the public revolted against his ways, Dhoble was transferred. He was the officer who dared to eradicate all unwanted elements from Mumbai, he is most honest and no nonsense officer. Mumbai police need such officers, but politics and political interference has ruined the system. He was pressurized by politicians and page three people whose survival was bar, dope and drugs. He also had hit the headlines for his controversial crackdown against bars and restaurants in the city, was transferred to various departments of Mumbai police. Such an active officer was transferred to control room of late, and then he was brought to the crime branch.
The media berated Dhoble for his “high-handed” style and for curtailing the city’s night life but residents in the vicinity of bars and pubs welcomed his tough stand. Then Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, soon after taking over, had ordered Dhoble to report to the crime branch instead of the Commissioner directly. Two women, detained by a police team led by Dhoble during a raid on restaurant for alleged human trafficking racket, had also dragged him to court, seeking compensation for alleged defamation. However, the Bombay High Court refused to pass any directions against the police.
Once the vendors were removed Dhoble left and, in no time, most hawkers returned. Soon after, word went around the market that Dhoble was back. Frightened peddlers ran pell-mell and in the melee, Jaiswal, a fruit vendor collapsed and died while being ferried to hospital. The death sparked protests by hawkers, who alleged that Dhoble beat up some of them, including Jaiswal, and it was the assault that led to the fruit seller’s death. Congress MP Priya Dutt and legislators Baba Siddiqui and Kripashankar Singh voiced and demanded Dhoble’s arrest. The state CID conducted an inquiry. Forensic experts submitted their findings giving a clean chit to Dhoble. The hawker died due to heart attack.
I personally see him as one of the most effective policemen who have initiated action against illegal hawkers, pubs and bars which operate beyond statutory deadlines and are often found breaking the law. It is alleged that the main detractors of Dhoble who accuse him of “moral policing” are owners/users of pubs and restaurants, which are indirectly owned by several powerful politicians and businessmen. Several hoteliers and beer bar owners’ worst fear came back to haunt them when they learned that hockey stick Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Vasant Dhoble has been transferred back to the city crime branch. Congress leaders made lots of politics over hawker’s death; hawkers are vote bank for many politicians and parties.
Dhoble’s image had become larger than life during his previous stint under former Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik. He hit international headlines for “spoiling” Mumbai’s nightlife by crack down on pubs, bars and restaurants, and also going after partygoers. But though the hockey sticks-wielding Dhoble, whose new charge includes the Vile Parle and Vakola police stations, evoked large scale protests from hoteliers and youngsters for his rough behaviour, he got support from citizens’ groups and NGOs for cracking down on prostitution and human trafficking, gambling and betting rackets.
After 39 years of service, ACP Vasant Dhoble is all set to keep his hockey stick aside and hang his uniform to say good bye to police department on May 31 and desire to spend his remaining life farming in his village after retirement. We wish him all the best for his second innings of life. However, like me many Mumbaikars would definitely miss him.