Policing in Mumbai took a back seat as 2,785 cops put on ‘PM duty’

India on 04 February 2014
Location : Mumbai, India | Source : Times of India. Image Source: Times of India

MUMBAI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's four-hour visit to Mumbai on January 10 saw a deployment of 2,785 cops—sufficient to man 14 police stations in the city—on the roads to ensure his security. The PM, in any case, is surrounded 24/7 by more than a dozen special protection group (SPG) commandos. 

Considering that there are an average of 200 cops in every police station in the city, manpower of roughly 14 police stations was engaged in "PM duty" for three to four days; the days prior to their deployment were used for rehearsals. The PM was in the city to inaugurate the new airport terminal (T2) at Sahar and lay the foundation stone for a Hadron therapy centre at Tata Memorial Centre, Parel. 

These facts were revealed through a right to information (RTI) plea filed by activist Chetan Kothari. 

Former top cops themselves have questioned the need for such a large deployment and aired concerns over taking away huge staff primarily meant to secure citizens who pay the public exchequer to run government services. They told TOI that during such exercises, pending complaints, FIR registrations, investigations, legal follow-ups and emergency calls take a back seat. 

Former top cop Julio Ribeiro said, "I think such exercises should be revised. A more practical approach should be taken for such assignments as taking away such a huge staff surely puts a burden on the existing machinery. Instead of putting men in khaki everywhere at every place, I think, just create helipads for VVIPs to land. This can eliminate the entire exercise." 

IPS officer-turned-lawyer and social activist Y P Singh agreed that arrangements and rehearsals for VIP duty take away a sizeable chunk of staff from their primary duty. "Rehearsals for security virtually engage such a huge staff for three to four days, affecting routine complaint handling, investigations, follow-ups and court matters. As police staff are told to set aside their primary duties, it is the common man who has to face the brunt of it all." 

He added that while deployment is unavoidable, it can be worked out in a way that involves minimum staff engagement and thus avoids wastage of resources. "Policy guidelines must be drafted. Such exercises ultimately affect traffic in a big way. Sometimes, panic within the higher echelons of the force also leads to diversion of large police staff." 

Kothari, too, said the citizen suffers delays in police matters. "The security staff themselves do not get toilets, drinking water facilities or medical help and have to make their own arrangements. I think instead of taking away police staff, more and more Home Guards and special social squads should be trained and deployed. Or, VVIPs can also take helicopters to avoid road travel and thus take away traffic jams." 

However, another former top cop said that as the head of the government, the PM does deserve security, even if it appears to be excessive. "We have lost prime ministers in the past. It is therefore necessary to maintain public order and regulate traffic," he said.

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