In a rare move that sends out a signal to a security-as-status-obsessed city, Mumbai's new police commissioner Hasan Gafoor withdrew armed bodyguards assigned to protect him.
Highly placed sources in the Protection and Security branch - the dedicated wing of Mumbai police that oversees security for VIPs and VVIPs - told HT on Tuesday that Gafoor had last week asked for the escort vehicle assigned to him to be withdrawn. The mobile escort, usually a Maruti Gypsy, was manned by one police officer, four armed constables and a driver.
"I cannot discuss security matters," 57-year-old Gafoor, Mumbai's first Muslim police commissioner since 1965, told the HT . Pressed further, he said: "Maybe there is no requirement." Sources said Gafoor had asked for the bodyguards to be deployed only if there was a need. Sources said that by discontinuing the escort, Gafoor appears to be suggesting that citizens cannot feel safe if the police commissioner is blanketed by security.
With Gafoor doing away with his bodyguards, attention has been drawn again to the corps of 3,500 policemen (of the Mumbai police's total strength of 42,500) who are engaged in VIP security/protection.
The government spends around Rs 3 crore every month on their salaries. There are establishment costs, allowances and money spent on training. Taken together, the monthly expenses of the department would be over Rs. 4.5 crore.
In a city that has one policeman for every 300 people (Delhi has one for every 348), politicians like Bal Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Narayan Rane, Chhagan Bhujbal, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil and Sushil Kumar Shinde have 43 policemen attached to each of them.