Delhi police anti-riot gear in dire need of upgrade, show records
About 36% of all helmets, 19% of lathis (batons), and 13% of poly carbonate body shields have been put in the category of “to be condemned”, the data further shows.Updated: Aug 04, 2020 01:19 IST
The Delhi Police’s armoury of anti-riot gear is in urgent need of an upgrade with nearly 70% of all tear gas shells and grenades, and 30% of bulletproof vests deemed “condemned (discarded)” or on the “verge of condemnation (declared unusable)”, data from a recent police inventory shows.
That’s not all. About 36% of all helmets, 19% of lathis (batons), and 13% of poly carbonate body shields have been put in the category of “to be condemned”, the data further shows.
Since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed in Parliament last December, the city has witnessed numerous protests, many of them violent, and a communal riot in north-east Delhi in February that left 53 dead and over 400 injured.
Between December 15 and 19, 2019, the city police fired nearly 450 tear gas shells to quell anti-CAA protests in Jamia Nagar and Seelampur-Jafarabad. Nearly 3,500 tear gas shells and gas grenades were used against rioters during the communal violence that ravaged several parts of north-east Delhi between February 24 and 26, a senior officer in the know of the matter, on condition of anonymity, said.
As tear gas shells, their launching guns, gas grenades, bulletproof vests, body shields, lathis and helmets are key anti-riot equipment and hundreds of demonstrations are organised every year in the national capital, the Delhi Police is gearing up to strengthen its armoury. Towards that end, the force recently carried out an inventory of anti-riot equipment available in all 15 police districts of Delhi and as many other units of Delhi Police.
After the evaluation, a list was drawn up on the equipment required and a proposal was drafted for the procurement of these items, said officials from provision and logistics (P&L) department that deals in the sale and purchase of items for the Delhi Police.
“The assessment of arms, ammunition and anti-riot equipment is done periodically to ascertain the status and condition of such items. On the basis of the assessment, we prepare a list of items required, and send the proposal to the ministry of home affairs for release of funds. A proposal to purchase anti-riot equipment is in the pipeline,” Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.
Data accessed by Hindustan Times shows that the police presently have 61,279 tear gas shells and gas grenades but about 70% of them have either expired or are nearing expiry date.
Similarly, of the 16,607 bulletproof vests with the force, 5,104 (nearly 30%) are to be disposed of.
The police have 18,685 helmets of which 6,718 are not fit for use. Of the 16,486 poly carbonate body shields and 23,195 lathis, 2,230 shields and 4,531 lathis have been declared unusable, shows the data.
“Poor maintenance and storage in unsuitable conditions are the prime reasons for the gear going to waste. The purchasing is vendor-driven and so the items procured are of poor quality. The ideal way would be to choose a vendor on the basis of quality and specification of items required as ascertained by the technical committee,” Vikram Singh, former director-general (DG) of Uttar Pradesh Police, said.
Many serving officers of the Delhi Police supported the former UP Police chief’s view and said anti-riot items are usually stored in malkhanas (storage room where recovered goods as well as arms and ammunition are stored) of police stations and these spaces are not temperature controlled.
“There is no fixed life span for a bulletproof vest. The vest armour is damaged only by gunshots. It’s the cloth and fitting buckles that decay because of poor storage and maintenance. The vests get mildewed from the sweat of the wearer and the damp and humid conditions in malkhanas,” an officer, who did not want to be named said.
Another officer from the P&L department said tear gas shells and gas grenades come with an expiry date, which is between three and five years.
“The expired shells are used for training sessions at the police training college,” the officer said, adding that lathis and body shields sustain damage either during their use or because of poor maintenance.