Eighteen hours at sea or land. That is the number of hours the 20 amphibious vehicles of Mumbai police have plied, ever since they were paraded across Girgaum Chowpatty on November 26, 2009, to commemorate the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008.
Similar is the state of the 20 sealegs that were procured to spruce up security along the 40-km Mumbai coastline. The contingent of vehicles, projected to be vital for the Mumbai police to prop up its coastal security, had taken centre stage as a then battered force worked its way up, to boost its own morale and restore confidence in Mumbaiites.
The amphibious vehicles, procured at a cost of Rs40lakh per unit, and sealegs at Rs20 lakh per unit from Canada, have come to a halt, mired in mechanical problems and lack of trained manpower, said Mumbai police sources. The Mumbai police neither deny nor confirm that the vehicles have been put to little use since their procurement. “We have been using it, and we will step up its operations when the situation demands,” said Nisar Tamboli, deputy commissioner of police (detection), given additional charge as the public relations officer.
But if senior IPS officers are to be believed, certain procurements made after the 26/11 terrorist strike, now prove to be just cosmetic. “It clearly was a knee-jerk reaction of a beleaguered force to save its face. Most senior officers in the police force knew it was more about style than substance,” said a senior IPS officer, requesting anonymity.
Why else would the Mumbai police go for a vehicle that cannot be repaired by its own motor transport (MT) section, question IPS officers. “Our MT section has not been trained to repair these vehicles. So each time one of these fail, a requisition for repairs has to be sent to the original equipment manufacturers in Canada,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
The repair process is not simple because it takes considerable time, probably even months for it, the officer added. There were talks with the manufacturers to get a service centre opened, but it was not economically viable for them to start a full-fledged service centre for just 20 vehicles, said police sources.