The wheels are new, and so are the engines. The odometers have clocked hardly a kilometre, and their bodies bear no dent or scratch.
It has been a month since the Delhi Police purchased 11 new vans, but they are yet to hit the road. Instead, the vehicles stand idly outside the armed police headquarters in west Delhi – ignored by all and sundry.
While some said the police haven’t received permission to use the diesel vans because they possess engines with outdated Euro 3 emission certification, a senior officer denied it. “They have Euro 4 engines. The vehicles will be registered soon,” he claimed on the condition of anonymity, but refused to explain why the vehicles haven’t been registered and put to use already.
Another officer said the vans can be used only after they are cleared under the exempted category.
European emission standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in EU and EEA member states. They form the basis for India’s Bharat stage emission standards.
Delhi Police decided to reduce the number of prisoners travelling in each van following an increase in instances of murder and violence aboard the vehicles. It bought the additional vans to achieve this goal.
After months of waiting, the armed police third battalion – responsible for transporting prisoners from jail to court – received 11 vans in the first week of November. Brought from Chennai, the buses were modified with additional chambers and tougher grills to separate warring prisoners.
“It’s been over a month. When will the department get permission to use the vans? As the new vehicles have cameras and LED screens, a policeman is stationed to guard them even during the day. Once the vehicles start, it will ease the congestion in prison vans,” said a police officer.
Around 1,500 prisoners are transported from jails to courts every day. Delhi police currently have just 60 vans, besides 15 Maruti Gypsies and other cars. Most of the inmates are bundled into the vans, barring “very high-risk” prisoners’ who are transported in the smaller vehicles. At least two cases of onboard violence among prisoners are reported from vans that are packed with 40-50 people every day.
In January, 29-year-old prisoner Manoj was beaten to death by other inmates while they were returning from a Saket court in a van. In August 2015, two prisoners – Vikram Paras and Pradeep Bhola – were beaten to death by gangster Neeraj Bawana and his associates.
The rise in violent incidents inside moving vans has also prompted police to station patrol vans on routes connecting courts with jails