The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), the first line of defence against 26/11-style attacks, is handicapped with more than half of its sanctioned 720-odd posts lying vacant.
The state government has imported new weapons, purchase armoured trucks and amphibious vehicles, but it hasn’t managed to recruit only 300 personnel for the ATS.
The maximum vacancies are in the middle-rung, at the police inspector- and sub-inspector-level, where nearly 90% of the posts are vacant. It is these officers who are the first to investigate or get intelligence inputs.
“Unless, you hire the best, how can the ATS be expected to deal with ultra-savvy terror modules? Over the last year, the government has dithered on these postings,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
At the crux of this staff crunch is the squabbling among police units, which will have to offer some of their men to the ATS.
The ATS was made an independent unit headed by an additional director-general of police-level officer after 26/11, but the government decided to recruit from within the force instead of sanctioning new posts.
Several police units, including the commissionerate, have not allowed their personnel to shift to the ATS.
ATS chief Rakesh Maria’s request for more manpower has fallen on deaf ears.
Last month, the row heated up, resulting in a fight between Mumbai police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal and additional chief secretary (Home) Chandra Iyengar. The matter remains unresolved.
“We are trying to fill the posts on a war footing given the importance of the ATS,” said Iyengar.
Former home secretary Ram Pradhan, who headed a two-member committee that probed the handling of the attacks, said: “The government should make public the action taken on our recommendations. I have not been kept in the loop and have no idea why the state failed to hire enough personnel for the ATS.”