More than one-third of the Delhi police's patrolling fleet is in a bad shape and efforts to replace them for over three years have fallen flat at the altar of an 'austerity drive', highly-placed sources said.
Sources said vehicles having been in service for six years and covered 1,50,000 km are considered redundant and around 5-10 vans become 'rickety' every month. A total of 240 vans have reached the stage of 'official condemnation'.
"These vehicles are so rickety that they are at workshops most of the time," said a police officer.
"Let alone chasing down criminals, these cannot even tread on slightly uneven terrain. It turns out to be a major handicap in highway patrolling," he added.
According to official estimate, of the 630 vans, 550 — including those unfit — are pressed into service and expected to honour a reaction time between 3-7 minutes in a city spread over 1,450 sq km. Sources said the fleet had to respond to at least 56,000 emergency calls between November 16 and 27.
According to sources, the issue triggered by the ministry's keenness on an internal austerity drive was raised by Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna in a letter, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde in October, but in vain.
The Centre had promised to push the police strength of its PCR fleet to 1,000 till the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But the police were neither provided with additional fleet nor were faulty vehicles replaced.
This, however, was the case only till Monday — a day after the horrific gangrape case.
On Tuesday, Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar was summoned by the home secretary and assured that his force would soon be in a position to procure 370 more vans.
"We will soon have 370 more PCR vans," the police commissioner said.