First the bad news. The state police force has been facing a serious manpower crunch at every rank. The shortfall is translating into inefficiency.
Now the good news. The situation has improved this year compared to the past few years, ever since the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) scam - answer papers of about 400 candidates were replaced after they allegedly paid bribes - in 2002 made everyone sit up and notice. The scam hastened the cancellation of exams for the recruitment of police sub-inspectors (PSIs). The PSI is the first officer-rank post in the force and brings with it the heaviest workload. During the British Raj, PSIs used to head police stations, a function now discharged by senior police inspectors.
Till early this year, half the PSI posts lay vacant. This resulted in massive backlogs in every aspect of policing - from crime detection to investigation. The state police had 4,279 PSIs as against the sanctioned strength of 8,279. In the Mumbai police, there were just 1,500 PSIs, though the sanctioned strength was 3,200.
The shortfall forced the department to deploy the available PSIs in core policing functions, such as law and order and bandobast. Economy was observed by pruning staff in subsidiary branches, such as enforcement and prohibition.
Specialised units, such as the Anti-Terrorism Squad and commando units, also suffered because of the staff crunch.
"There has been a marked improvement this year," said Dr BK Upadhyay, Inspector-General of Police, Establishments. To make up for the 4,000 vacancies, the MPSC has doubled recruitments in the past two years. Earlier, it used to recruit 250 to 300 candidates a year. However, since the exams resumed two years ago, it has been recruiting around 700 PSI candidates a year.
"We have also been conducting exams within the cadre, and promoting the assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs) who pass to PSI rank," Upadhyay said.
So far this year 533 candidates have been promoted within the force, taking the total number of recruits to 1,233.
To cope with the increase in the number of recruits, facilities at the Police Training School at Nashik have been upgraded. "We have made additional arrangements at our training schools so that each candidate is trained in all facets of policing, ranging from investigation and detection to law and combat," said Upadhyay.
He said that if the present pace of recruitment continues, existing vacancies would be filled in three to four years. "Once we are at full strength at the PSI level, vacancies in the other ranks will be filled by effecting promotions," Upadhyay added.