Rickety, old jeeps and bikes crippling Mumbai’s police force
According to IGP Deven Bharati, who is in charge of law and order in Mumbai, the ideal response time of the Mumbai police to a situation anywhere in the city is just 5-7 minutes. This is the benchmark set for all 93 police stations in the city.
However, ground realities are very different. The actual response time varies, given that most of the jeeps and motorcycles at the police stations are not road-worthy. “A majority of them are just pieces of junk,” said a senior inspector in a suburban police station, adding, “We would be really lucky if we managed to reach the spot.”
Recently, a senior officer from a police station in the eastern suburbs received a tip-off on the whereabouts of a missing child in Thane district, late at night. He passed on the message to concerned officials, who took an auto rickshaw to reach the spot, instead of the rickety jeep at the police station.
Believe it or not, 50% of the 4,040 vehicles used by the Mumbai police have outlived their utility by more than half a decade and are not reliable modes of transport. This includes the fleet of jeeps and motorcycles that are crucial for the force’s mobility. “Mumbai remains high on the terror radar and given the crippling condition of transportation of the force, the situation could be called a crisis,” said a senior officer.
A fleet of 219 Toyota Qualis were added to the force in 2002. This was followed by 420 Mahindra Boleros in 2004. Even after the 26/11 terror strike, the Rs-200 crore modernisation grant for the Mumbai police in 2011 had no provision for procurement of new vehicles. By that time, the Qualis jeeps had already outlived their utility, after a decade-long run. “Some of them had a run of over five lakh kilometres, much beyond the set limit of 2.4 lakh kilometres,” said an officer from the Motor Transport department of the Mumbai police. The Boleros too had reached termination age.
Sources said though there is a pressing need for procurement of a new fleet of vehicles to replace the old fleet, the police have got replacements of 10-15 vehicles over the years. “These piecemeal procurements mostly consist of swanky sedans and SUVs for senior officials, while the police stations got a few Boleros for regular work,” said an officer.
The force is paying a price for this. A huge amount has been spent to procure spares for aging vehicles that are prone to frequent breakdowns. On any given day,150-200 jeeps and motorcycles are brought to the four MT workshops at Nagpada, Tardeo, Ghatkopar and Marol, for repairs. There is a wait for repairs as workshops suffer from acute shortage of mechanics, with 345 vacancies. At the Nagpada workshop, vehicles have been gathering dust for years. Bharati said, “Our vehicles are often proving to be a hindrance to our performance.”
IPS officer turned lawyer YP Singh said, “There is no dearth of money in the home department. The problem lies with red tape, and files do not move. This has created the crisis. He added, “When mobility is reduced, it has an effect on every facet of policing …from patrolling, prevention and detection of crimes to law and order.”
An inspector from a station in the western suburbs said, “Almost all the motorcycles at my police stations are unfit for use. I have written several times to the Motor Transport department to allot us new bikes, as our beat patrolling is affected. They got back saying the staff should use private bikes till fresh purchases are made.”
Number of vehicles used by the Mumbai police
* 1,100: Jeeps
* 1,640: Motorcycles
* 1,300: Other vehicles
Average vehicle presence at each of the 93 police stations
* 4 Jeeps
* 2 light vans
* 5-6 motorcycles for beat patrolling (of the 10 sanctioned allotment)
Average lifespan of vehicles
10 years or 2.4 lakh km run, whichever comes first
* Sanctioned strength of drivers—2,800
* Required strength of drivers—4,100
* Actual strength of drivers—2,325
* On an average day, at least 200 vehicles visit any of the five MT workshops for repairs and maintenance
* Vacant posts of mechanics—345