MUMBAI: Details of the city police budget obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that the Mumbai police spent more than 85 per cent of its money just to pay salaries to its workforce of 40,000. Consequently, this left little funds aside for modernisation and intelligence gathering—which experts stress on as it is the need of the hour given the threat posed by terror outfits.

The huge toll that salaries take upon the budget is clearly evident in the establishment costs of Mumbai police. Over Rs 415 crore of the allocated Rs 490 crore goes towards paying salaries. What is shocking is that more money has to be set aside for paying 'off day compensation' (Rs 52 lakh) to police officials who work without a weekly off, than is available for secret service expenditure (Rs 50 lakh).

"Secret service fund is meant to pay off informants and gather intelligence to tackle crime," said ex-IPS officer Y P Singh. "But the money that is allocated towards it has always been laughable," he said.

Similarly, of the Rs 56 crore allocated for the Criminal Investigation Department, Rs 52 crore is spent in paying salaries. The CID carries out important functions of vigilance and investigation.

In fact, from a budget that runs into over Rs 650 crore, less than Rs 90 lakh had been set aside for reward money to be paid to officers who crack cases through good investigation skills. Many policemen have complained in the past that they never saw the reward amount that was announced by their department after they had solved a crime.

Investigating teams which cracked the 1993 Mumbai blast case, the 2003 Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar bomb blasts case, have still not got their rewards.

Former commissioner of police, M N Singh, said that the budgetary problem stemmed from the fact that currently there was an over-emphasis on numbers when it came to policing. "We need to concentrate on core policing issues such as fighting crime and intelligence gathering," M N Singh said. "Police is responsible for all kinds of 'bandobast' and there is excessive deployment on the ground. This means that we have to maintain a manpower heavy force," he added.

Information given under RTI shows that Harbour Police—which keeps a vigil on seaborne criminals, smugglers and now even terrorists—had no money allocated to buy vehicles or purchase new machinery and equipment. "The message has to get across that we have to spend money on modernising the force but it is not happening," said Y P Singh.

Admitting that a major portion of the budget is going only towards maintaining its men, joint commissioner police (administration) Hemant Karkare said that large grants from central government had kept the police force going. "We have been buying new vehicles and equipment and are also working on long-term plans to modernise the force," Karkare said. He added that some thought was being given to taking away many of the non-police functions that the city police currently performs.

22 Oct 2007, Kartikeya,TNN