Mumbai: The Union budget for 2019-20 increased funding for police modernisation by 8% over the previous year, but government data over five years to 2017 show that in many states, the modernisation budget remains under-utilised, even as many of them lack elementary infrastructure such as telephones, wireless devices and transport vehicles.

‘Modernisation’ includes upgradation of weapons, communications systems including wireless devices and satellite networks, and the development of forensic infrastructure including labs and training of manpower, among other matters. Altogether, the utilisation of police forces’ modernisation budget was less than half (48%) of the funding available, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data.

“The central government releases grants for modernisation, which the state has to match. States don’t always release modernisation funds. This needs to be changed,” M N Singh, former Police Commissioner of Mumbai, told IndiaSpend.

Meanwhile, in this year’s budget, the allocation for ‘police infrastructure’--distinct from the modernisation allocation, and including such heads as maintenance of existing vehicles, basic weapons and telephones--actually declined by 2%.

As a result, police forces across India lack weapons and fundamental communications and transport infrastructure--267 police stations had no telephones and 129 had no wireless communication devices as of January 2017, as per the latest available data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD). There were eight vehicles for every 100 police personnel for responding to distress calls, patrolling and maintaining law and order in their jurisdictions.

The number of police stations functioning without wireless communication devices across India increased 231% from 39 in 2012 to 129 by the end of 2016. At the beginning of 2017, 273 police stations across the country did not possess a single transportation vehicle.

Communications infrastructure

More than half of the police stations without wireless communication devices were in Manipur (30), Jharkhand (22) and Meghalaya (18). Manipur ranked 28th among all states and union territories in terms of crime rate (121.9 per 100,000 people), when the worst possible rank was the 36th; Meghalaya ranked 29th (crime rate 120.4), and Jharkhand 30th (120.9).

Meanwhile, the number of police stations functioning without telephones declined 10% from 296 in 2012 to 269 in 2017.

More than 45% of the stations without telephones were in Uttar Pradesh (51), Bihar (41) and Punjab (30). Uttar Pradesh ranked 26th among all states and UTs with a crime rate of 128.7, Bihar 22nd with a crime rate of 157.4, and Punjab 24th with a crime rate of 137.

At the start of 2017, 51 police stations across the country had neither telephones nor wireless communication devices--down from 100 stations in 2012. More than half of these were located in the northeastern states of Manipur (15) and Meghalaya (12).

“With greater transport and communication equipment, the police can patrol a greater area more efficiently,” Singh said. “Wireless communication devices, mobiles, and vehicles are imperatives today. If anything happens, the police needs to be able to communicate well to address the issue. With better communication and transportation, one policeman can do as much work as ten policemen.”

Transport infrastructure

At the end of 2016, Indian police forces had, on average, one transport vehicle for 12.38 police personnel--an improvement from 15 per vehicle at the end of 2011.

Availability of transport infrastructure per 100 police personnel rose 19% from 6.78 by the end of 2011 to 8.08 in by the end of 2016, due largely to a 500% increase in the number of vehicles such as mine-proof vehicles, forensic vans, prison trucks and water tankers from 1,255 in 2011 to 7,536 in 2016.

The number of medium and light vehicles such as cars and jeeps increased only 21% from 76,088 in 2012 to 92,043 in 2016.

Yet, 273 police stations across the country had no transportation facilities by the end of 2016. Almost 90% of these were located in insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh (126), neighbouring Telangana (91), and Manipur (25), which also experiences internal conflict.

Uttar Pradesh, with 30 police personnel per vehicle, Mizoram with 22, and Himachal Pradesh with 18 had the fewest transport facilities per 100 police personnel in 2017.

Weapons shortage

Meanwhile, several state police forces operate with subpar weapons and communications infrastructure, as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found after examining five states from 2014 to 2018.

In Uttar Pradesh, in particular, of the initial demand of Rs 69.91 crore under the Modernisation of State Police Forces (MPF) scheme, only 55% or Rs 38.31 crore was allocated, and only Rs 32.99 crore (47% of the initial demand) was utilised, as per CAG’s 2017 audit of the state. Nearly half (48%) the police force was using weaponry that the home ministry had declared outdated over 20 years ago.

In Rajasthan, the CAG reported a 75% paucity of weapons in 2015 compared to the recommended quantum between 2009 and 2014. The state police required 15,884 weapons, of which they had received 3,962 (25%) at the time of the audit. Of these, 2,350, or 59% weapons were in storage and not distributed to the police stations.

Therefore, police stations in Rajasthan received only 14.7% of the requisite weapons, and faced a shortage of more than 85%.

The audit in West Bengal found a 71% weapons shortfall; Karnataka and Gujarat had a shortfall of 37% and 36%, respectively.

Erratic utilisation of modernisation budget

The modernisation budget, according to the BPRD, helps to upgrade police infrastructure--constructing people-friendly police stations and posts, and improving mobility, weaponry and communication equipment.

However, states’ utilisation of these funds has been erratic. Across India, over five years to 2017, less than half (48%) or Rs 13,720 crore ($1.9 billion) of the overall modernisation budget of Rs 28,703 crore ($4 billion) was utilised.

From 87% utilisation in 2014, all-India utilisation of modernisation funds fell to 14% in 2016, only to rise again to 75% in 2017.

Among states, Nagaland alone used all of its allocation for modernisation of Rs 1,172 crore through the financial year 2015-16, BPRD data show. Jammu and Kashmir spent around 45% of its modernisation budget, Rs 40 crore out of Rs 89.59 crore. Uttar Pradesh used 23% (Rs 26.31 crore) of its Rs 116.66 crore.

The modernisation of communications infrastructure is also incomplete in several states.

Uttar Pradesh spent 28% or Rs 56 crore of its budgetary allocation of Rs 137 crore to enhance its communications infrastructure during 2011-12 to 2015-16, CAG said.

In Karnataka, from 2013-14 to 2016-17, only Rs 6.93 crore was released against the initial demand of Rs 15.93 crore for the procurement of updated communications equipment, of which none were utilised as of 2018, another CAG report found. In 2018, all of the 43,636 communication sets (wireless devices, walkie-talkies, etc.) with the state police were past their recommended life-span.

“Policing now has become technology-centric. The police must modernise and expand its capabilities with respect to cyber-crime, currency flight, international trafficking, and other such crimes of enormous dimensions. We must also improve our capabilities with regard to cyber forensics, which is important today,” Singh said.

In 2002, India set up a satellite-based communication network called Police Telecommunication Network (POLNET) to enable faster communication between the police and paramilitary forces.

As of 2016, only 38 of 75 (51%) districts in Uttar Pradesh had functional POLNET infrastructure, CAG found.

In Gujarat, the entire POLNET system was either out of order or absent in October 2015, CAG found, and observed a 32% deficit in trained manpower to operate the relevant equipment, as of March 2015.

Gujarat spent none of the Rs 31.81 crore it received in 2013 and 2014 to upgrade its urban policing infrastructure. From 2009-10 to 2014-15, 73% of the funds Gujarat received for this purpose remained unspent.

(Mehta, a second-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago, is an intern with IndiaSpend.)

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