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Mumbai Police modernisation generates controversy

Praveen Swami

Weapons purchased without conducting field tests or evaluating the competitive technologies

MUMBAI: Ill-planned efforts to upgrade the counter-terrorism capabilities of the Mumbai Police may have led to the acquisition of outdated and inappropriate weapons, highly placed government sources told The Hindu.

Last month, the police placed orders for four new weapons without conducting field trials to determine their effectiveness in local conditions or evaluating the competing technologies.

The police planners selected the Colt M4 5.56-millimetre carbine for assault roles, the Brügger & Thomet sub-compact MP9 for close-protection duties, the Smith & Wesson Military and Police 9-millimetre pistol as a personal side-arm and the M107 50-calibre Special Application Rifle.

But experts in the National Security Guards and the Army told The Hindu that the choices made were less than transparent.

For example, the United States military special forces are replacing the Colt M4s with new-generation European-made weapons. And the state-of-the-art MP9 is intended to protect VIPs in environments where it is inappropriate to display guns—a responsibility the Mumbai Police does not have.

The M107 SAR, a lethal weapon designed to penetrate armour and bullet-proof glass, has been selected despite the risk of collateral damage and the fact that the Mumbai Police have no range on which personnel could be trained in its use. [See inside story].

Opaque committee

Highly placed police sources said the weapons were chosen by a committee comprising Police Commissioner Hasan Gaffur, Additional Commissioner of Police (Protection) Vinay Khargaonkar and Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sanjay Barwe.

Off the record, Mumbai Police officials said the force chose to bypass testing and competitive evaluation procedures because of the urgent need for new weapons.

Mr. Gaffur did not respond to phone calls and a text message seeking information on how the weapons systems were chosen.

Notably, the committee did not hold consultations with the Maharashtra Police and the National Security Guards (NSG), which have primary responsibility for counter-terrorism roles in Mumbai.

Force One

On April 2, the Maharashtra government passed orders creating Force One, a 350-man crack special weapons and tactics formation modelled on the National Security Guards. According to the order, Force One, than the Mumbai Police, will have the primary responsibility of counter-terrorism operations in the city—making it possible the expensive weapons the committee ordered will never be used.

Later this year, the NSG will begin operations from a new 25-acre facility in the city’s Kalina area. The NSG personnel in Kalina will be equipped with much of the special equipment the Mumbai Police had ordered, including the M107 SAR and the Brügger & Thomet MP9.

Union Home Ministry officials in New Delhi, who granted permission to the Mumbai Police to import the new equipment last month, declined to comment on the controversy. “It is our job to act as a facilitator of modernisation and not to sit in judgment on what equipment best meets the needs of a particular state. While we may have our concerns, we do not wish to be cast as spoilers,” a senior official said.

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