Time and again, we have cried ourselves hoarse over the police not doing enough to protect the city, but one look at the current manpower shows us how grossly short-staffed and overworked our police force is. Consider this. For a population of 20.7 million, the Mumbai police have a sanctioned strength of only 45,539 officers. And its current strength is just 43,157.
Once deemed the best in the country, the Mumbai police force is a pale shadow of its former glory.
Former IPS officer YP Singh said in the 70s, when the city’s population was around 60 lakh, the police had a sanctioned strength of 37,000 to 38,000 officers and men.
“Today, the role of a policeman has changed. While they deal with additional work and investigate cybercrimes, cases of POSCO, environment, among others, the staff strength has not increased,” he said.
This has a direct effect on the working conditions of a policeman, and can lead to outbursts like that of assistant sub-inspector Dilip Shirke, who killed his senior Vilas Joshi and later shot himself, said officers.
“Our working conditions are almost inhuman, and the level of frustration is very high. The current situation is such that possibly each police station has one ASI Shirke in its ranks,” said a senior officer.
According to Singh, the force needs at least 1 lakh policemen.
An assistant inspector said a major concern for the lower rung officers is about the leave sanctioned to them. “If one applies for 10 days off, then the senior officer will reduce it by one day, the assistant commissioner will reduce it by another, and so will the deputy commissioner,” he said.
Agreeing that the plight of the city’s police force was worrying, D Sivanandhan, former Mumbai police commissioner, said, “Recruiting crude, half-literate people isn’t the solution. The need is to have quality men, and also to introduce modern technology.”
Prakash Singh, former director general of police, who has consistently fought for police reforms, said states should have a different force for law and order, and for investigations. But the government has, so far, refused to accept the recommendations.
Singh said Maharashtra is the worst in implementing police reforms. “At times, holidays don’t get sanctioned because of work pressure. And sometimes, seniors lack compassion. The bond between seniors and juniors has weakened,” he said.