Ghatkopar police firing range to reopen after nine years
The Mumbai police are reopening their firing range at Ghatkopar after it was closed in 2014 due to incidents of stray bullets hitting residents. The range has been rebuilt with safety measures and will open next month. The new range will be technologically advanced and will include an administrative complex. However, the reopening of the range is facing opposition from local residents. The range will allow for long-range firing practice and provide realistic training experiences.
MUMBAI: The Mumbai police are all set to re-open their firing range at Ghatkopar, which has remained closed since 2014 after several incidents of stray bullets hitting residents were reported from Powai and adjoining areas. The range, which is the police’s only one for long-range firing practice, will open next month.
The range has been completely rebuilt, and baffle walls—rubber- and wood-embedded walls to prevent bullets from going astray—have been put in place to ensure that no untoward incident takes place. “We will complete the work by December,” said S Jayakumar, joint commissioner of police, administration, who added that ₹15 crores was sanctioned to build the technologically advanced firing range with ten lanes. “The Chandigarh-based Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory (TBRL), which specialises in evaluation of firing projectiles, approved the design,” he said.
Jayakumar said the Ghatkopar range had been converted into one of the most advanced and secure ranges in the country, on par with ranges in developed countries. “It is also like the firing ranges established by the Indian Army in urban areas of the country where high and thick concrete walls are created to prevent bullets from going astray,” he said. “We have built six top baffle walls and 13 side baffle walls at the Ghatkopar range. The firing tunnels are further secured by protective walls at every 20 feet.”
The new construction will also have an administrative complex, a 6,000-square-feet state-of-the-art building which will serve as a waiting area for policemen. “Since the closure of the Ghatkopar range, we have been taking policemen to Alibag for practicing long-range (100-200-300 metres) firing, but it was a cumbersome process and not everyone managed to get this practice every year, as the costs involved were also high,” he said.
Jayakumar said the police had several short-range (14-metre) firing ranges but Ghatkopar was the only long-range one. “It was built in 1963 after the BMC gave the Mumbai police this plot covered by hills on three sides,” he said. “Firing from pistols, Glocks and other short weapons can be practised in smaller ranges, but AK-47 or MP5 and INSAS automatic rifles need bigger, long ranges. Without proper practice, our men will not be able to use the weapons when the need arises.”
The new range will also provide a facility for multifunctional shooting targets, horizontal moving targets and night firing simulators to give a realistic training experience of firing in night conditions, poor light conditions and dealing with moving targets, said another police officer. “This will be the best and most advanced firing range available in the entire Mumbai metropolitan region,” he added.
The firing range has, however, already started facing opposition from Powai and Ghatkopar residents, a cause which has been taken up by BJP MLA Ram Kadam. Kadam met deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to complain about the reopening: his contention was that when the range was built in 1963, there was no urbanisation but today the conditions were different, with people living in the vicinity, who were at risk of getting hit. Kadam said he would keep opposing the reopening.
On an average, around 7,000 to 8,000 bullets are fired at a firing range every day with sessions starting from 7 am and continuing till 4 pm. At Ghatkopar, the firing will continue even at night. Every policeman has to shoot a minimum of 40 practice bullets per year, and special units like the Quick Response Team (QRT) have practice sessions every three months.
BOX Past accidents
· In February 2010, two bullets hit a car windowpane and the wall of a nearby building. Police officials said the bullets missed the targets and could have hit rocks, after which they ricocheted on the car and the building wall.
· In Sept 2014, a tear gas leak at the range caused 40 slum dwellers from Barve Nagar and Batwadi to suffer eye irritation, breathlessness and cough.
· In December 2014, a stray bullet from the firing range hit the windscreen of a car in Powai, shattering its windshield