There was fresh hope in the Mumbai police department recently after the Maharashtra government decided to clear the much-delayed file for the procurement of new fleets of jeeps and motorcycles for the force. The file had been stuck in red tape in the home department since 2013. However, the supply does not match the demand.
Against the required replacement of 1,250 jeeps that could have allowed the police to scrap the rickety fleet of 1,100 jeeps in use since 2002 , the government sanctioned purchase of only 300 jeeps. Similarly, against the required fleet of around 400 motorcycles, grants are to be released for 150.
Atul Patil, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Motor Transport department, who has been pursuing the matter for the past two years, is satisfied with the government approval. “Now we can provide at least one new jeep to each of the 93 police stations,” Patil told HT. The next purchases can be made in phases, he said.
He said after the procurement is completed, likely by the end of July, the department will first scrap those jeeps acquired before 2004, as they have completely outlived their utility. “We will go for Tata Sumos and Boleros which are cost-effective and better suited to the condition of Indian roads,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources said the early breakdown of vehicles has more to do with lack of driving expertise than engineering. “Since 2007, the recruitment for drivers in the force has stopped. At present, there is a shortage of at least 475 drivers while 1,200 more are required. In the absence of trained drivers, ordinary constables double up as drivers, though they are not properly trained for the job,” said a source.
Patil meanwhile said though the four workshops are facing shortage of mechanics, the problem can be sorted out through modernisation. “By introducing pneumatic tools we have reduced manual repairing at several points, which has reduced manpower needs for maintenance,” he said.
Patil has now sent a proposal for changing condemnation norms for vehicles. “The proposal calls for reducing the condemnation age of vehicles from 10 years or 2.4 lakh km to seven years or 2.4 lakh km. This way, the vehicles would fetch good re-sale value and save on maintenance that becomes frequent after 6-7 years,” he said.