I have been in love with Mumbai for so long. I used to proudly ‘sell’ it to people and claimed it to be the best & safest city in India. Something happened last night and I don’t think I will be able to say it to anyone again. Okay, straight to last night (01 AUG 2014).--
My friend Sreejita De is a TV actress and currently working in ‘Uttaran’ daily telecasted on Colors channel. Her cousin is visiting Mumbai and both of them had gone out for dinner at Pali Village Dhaba in Mira Road.
After the dinner, she had to drop her cousin at her brother's place. I happened to be around the area on their way so we decided to catch up briefly. Her car was having some problems so they had taken an auto rickshaw arranged by the restaurant staff. The route was on western expressway so she didn’t expect it to be an issue considering good amount of traffic on the expressway throughout the night. She has traveled earlier in rickshaw at late hours from filmcity to her home.
I reached the meeting place. She said she is stuck in traffic because of some small accident on the road and should be there soon. Few minutes later she told me that the rickshaw driver was stopped by police just before Dahisar toll naka. She didn't respond to my messages for a while.
I called her up twice, the phone kept on ringing. This worried me a bit but I decided to keep my anxious thoughts at bay.
Not hearing anything back, I decided to go towards them. Suddenly, I saw an autorickshaw pulling up behind my car. Without really looking behind or stepping out of the car I took a sigh of relief. Sreejita came outside my car window. She looked a little shocked. In a flash, I saw her cousin standing beside her & crying profusely. Sreejita gave me a very quick update - four people in a car stopped their rickshaw on the western expressway, beat up the rickshaw driver, manhandled her and her cousin, forcefully snatched away their mobile phones and money and fled away within seconds. Both girls had scratches on their hands at several places.
I noted down autorickshaw number, driver’s name and contact info and let him go. I asked both of them to sit in the car and calm down. It had started raining heavily by then. I dialed 100 and informed the police about the incident. They asked us if we knew the car number which we didn’t. They asked us to figure out the nearest police station and report there. Just at that moment, a police jeep crossed us. We stopped them. They asked us to follow their jeep to the police station.
We started following them while Sreejita narrated the incident to me in more detail. They had crossed the Dahisar toll naka at 0143 hrs. The police was conducting their routine naka bandi at that time. As they moved forward on the Western Expressway onto a flyover, a silver colored Innova came from behind and stopped right ahead of the autorickshaw. Three young guys, in their early 20s, came out of the car and started beating the rickshaw driver. Two of them then started manhandling her cousin and took away her phone. One of them had his face covered with a cloth, the other two had their faces visible. Two of them then came to Sreejita, man-handled her and forcefully took away her phone and money. In no time, they fled the spot. Clearly in a complete shock, both Sreejita and her cousin could not see the number plate of the car. They then asked the autorickshaw driver to drop them at the place where I was waiting.
We reached Dindoshi police station and narrated the incident to them. I asked them if they can provide me access to internet so that I can locate the phone position using Google location history. To my surprise they didn’t have internet available. My phone battery was dying but left with no option, I decided to trace the location on my phone.
Sreejita logged into her account and we could see the last location update happened just a few minutes back at link road close to Mhada Colony, Borivali (W). We communicated the same to police who didn’t seem to show much of interest into it but were more keen on asking about the place of incident.
Policemen told us that the case needs to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the place of incident so it was important to reach to spot and ascertain the area. Our verbal description of the exact place was not enough and had to be physically visited by a policeman. They did mention that a wireless communication has been sent to the police van around the last updated location of phone. With no other way to move forward we agreed to accompany them to the place of incident.
One policeman sat in our car and kept on stressing on the need to do this procedure. He was loud and pushy in his communication so I had to shut him down. He then kept quiet and we reached the place of incident. He took down notes on the adjoining areas and told us that this area falls under Dahisar Police station.
He took us to Dahisar Police Station and informed them about the incident. All this while I kept on updating the location of the car (phone) which was moving on the link road. We thought that, right from the beginning the priority had to be intercepting the moving car whose approximate location was known. A small timely action like naka-bandi on the link road could have caught the guys. And I would not be writing this post. Each second of delay meant that we were losing them.
After a lot of story-telling & hearing, the police decided to go towards the last updated location. I left Sreejita and her cousin at the police station where a lady officer was also present. Three policemen sat in my car and 2 jeeps went ahead of us. By this time my phone battery was dead so I borrowed the policeman’s phone to track location. The data connection turned out to be really slow and we couldn’t get the next position for another half an hour. We spent one hour looking for silver Innova on the link road but in vain. Data connection resumed and we could zero down the position of the phone within a 500m radius area of Chincholi Fire Station on Link road. All last updates were coming from the same location for an hour-and-a-half, hinting that the car (phone) was not moving anymore. We went from one housing society to another looking for the silver Innova but couldn’t trace it. Approximate static position was difficult to pindown. At 0515 hrs we decided to go back to the police station.
Sreejita and her cousin were still there. Exhausted. We asked the police to register FIR. They had a small discussion among themselves about it. And then started the marathon FIR writing process. 4 hrs. Yes FOUR HOURS! 4 pages of FIR form took 4 hours to complete even with no other case or distraction in the police station at that hour. Every 20 minutes we would think it is over but it kept going on and on. Throughout the night, Sreejita and her cousin’s parents kept on calling. They were extremely worried and wanted them to be back home. But we were determined to finish the formal process. Not because we wanted the mobile phones back but we wanted those guys to be nabbed. It happened to these girls today, it may happen to someone else tomorrow.
The FIR filing finally came to an end. Police had to give one copy of FIR to us but none of the photocopiers in the station were working. The outside shops would take another half an hour to open so we decided to go back home and collect the copy later.
An hour later we received a call from police station to identify two phones which were found in an autorickshaw in Malad. We reached Dahisar police station again and were asked to go to Malad station to identify the phones. However, the brief description of the phones as told by Malad police over phone call was not matching with ours so we decided to skip it.
Fifteen minutes later we were asked to come to Dahisar toll naka to watch last night’s footage. Once we reached, we found out that a few cameras were not working. Going over the footage of rest of the cameras we saw a few silver Innova cars passing through but the poor camera quality at night time ensured that the number plates were not visible.
We had been awake all night. We thanked them & decided to go back home. The long night came to an end. We are yet to hear any further information from the police.--
The purpose of this post is several fold:
Yes, we aspire to be a safe city, a safe country and a safe world. We know we are not one, and till that time we need to take care of ourselves. We read, we hear, we see a lot of incidents happening around us but we tend to take it for granted that it cannot happen to us, until one day when it does. And at that moment we curse ourselves for being complacent. Let us be proactive in saving ourselves and people around us. That extra care may feel unnecessary but lets do it. Hope for the best & plan for the worst.
I came back home and started looking at all the location and time data I had. I figured that Google logs more data points than the ones I was seeing previous night. I downloaded it all and was able to plot their travel path through the night. Here is the route they followed. Click on “More options” to interact with it.
Also, there were two location where the position was static for long durations. After averaging out the many data points at those location I have been able to narrow down the position to two places marked in the map below. We can reasonably assume that those are the points of their/their accomplices’ residence or frequently visited locations.
Investigating in these locations can definitely lead to some breakthroughs.
Dear Police. This is 2014. Poor infrastructure (Non-availability of internet, non-functional photocopy machines), delay in communication within the police department, non-functional CCTV cameras, poor video quality of camera at night time.
We are so far behind. At one end - I, in my work life, have been pushing police to use latest technology like UAVs to respond quickly to situations but on ground I find a ‘common’ technology like CCTV missing.
When will we see a day when a control room would be able to capture movement of any suspicious car on the road in real time and take action on it. How difficult is it really?
We will always look back at this episode later in life as – ‘Remember the night we spent at Police Station’. How we describe it will depend on how you act on it now. This is a solvable case. There is so much of data and information available. Act on it. Bring those guys down. Mumbai police, please reinstate my faith in you!
- By Amardeep Singh with inputs from Sreejita DeTweet