14 September 2010
By Vinay Dalvi
Paranoid officers refuse to even interrogate one of the five Ravi Pujari aides, for fear of contracting AIDS
According to sources in the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society, the state spends approximately Rs 8 crore annually on AIDS awareness programmes.
Anti–Extortion Cell officers have a Ravi Pujari gangster in their custody, who along with four other Pujari men, was arrested on September 6. Three are from Nepal, and the others from Gujarat. The police had termed the arrests a major breakthrough in their battle against Pujari, who has created panic in the Western suburbs by targeting builders and jewellers, and had also threatened Bollywood personalities.
However, the super confident cops suddenly developed cold feet after they received the medical reports of the five men, in which one of them was revealed to be carrying the virus. Officers immediately stopped going anywhere near him, and were even scared to escort him to the hospital.
An officer said on condition of anonymity, "Nobody wants to interrogate this man. After learning about his condition, we are scared to even accompany him to the hospital. Cops are worried he may try to harm them in such a way that the virus may get transmitted. We prefer to keep a safe distance."
The official version, however, says, ‘The accused needs constant medication, and hence they are not pressing for his further custody’.
Inspector Nitin Alaknure from the Anti–Extortion Cell said, "We need to set aside two constables exclusively for this person. He needs constant medication, and is always sick.
"It’s very difficult for us to interrogate him, and that’s the reason we have not requested the court to extend his custody." Some Crime Branch officials allege that they come across HIV positive patients in at least one out of ten cases. In one such case involving a huge cache of silver, two of the accused were HIV patients.
An officer who was part of the team said, "In the early 90s officers were scared of inspecting bloodstains even in case of accidents. But they are far more informed now. There must be a bit of fear in the constabulary but that too is negligible."
The police custody of the five accused expires on September 18. On Sunday, the cops produced the accused before the court, saying he should be sent to judicial custody since he was HIV positive and remains ill most of the time.
Former IPS officer turned advocate, YP Singh criticised the stand the team has taken, saying, "It is an unprofessional act. Custody is for the sake of investigations and if a person has HIV it has nothing to do with the investigations."
Incidentally, there are at the moment 20–25 policemen surrounding a HIV–positive stamp–paper scamster lodged in Pune’s Yerwada Jail.