'Understaffed' force leads the way

One of the most important teams, the special cell, keeps up the fight with few men

The threat of terror strikes in New Delhi seems to be compounded by the fact that Delhi police are understaffed by some 4,000 personnel. It is said that lack of adequate personnel has affected the functioning of Delhi police’s anti-terrorism squad — the special cell.

According to a comprehensive study by the Union home ministry’s bureau of police research and development, Delhi police have a sanctioned strength of 69,645, out of which only 693 were working with the special branch, and 611 with the special cell when the last review was done in 2009.

The figures for the ‘special forces’ were meager compared to the number of personnel that the district police has — south (4,050), south-west (2,631), west (2,443), north (2,844), north-west (1,806), central (2,744), New Delhi (2,169), east (2,775), north-east (2,234) and outer (2,220).

The bureau had given its views on a report titled ‘comprehensive proposal for strengthening Delhi police’, which proposed creation of 16,486 posts to increased the workforce in different ranks. It also pointed out that police have been finding it extremely difficult to perform duties with the existing sanctioned strength. “Some of the notable areas where Delhi police have found it extremely difficult to perform as expected includes collection of intelligence pertaining to terrorism,” the report had stated.

An analysis of the proposal was done after a series of meetings with senior police officials.

However, S N Srivastava, special commissioner of police (special cell), denied that the department was facing any problem and insisted that it is adequately staffed.

“Of course it is impossible to lay down an absolute yardstick to determine whether the department is short staffed. But I strongly believe that we have enough personnel, latest technology and hi-tech weapons to combat terrorism,” he said.

“The arrests we have made in the last one year also proves that we have been most active when it comes to fighting terrorism,” Srivastava said.

He said the special cell’s efficiency is boosted with the presence of the best personnel available in the force. “An officer is normally selected into the special cell after his record is considered, or on a recommendation of a senior district police official. We also choose the best staff available with district police,” Srivastava added.

His confidence would prove to be true when it is considered that the special cell has been getting success in dealing with the August 1 Pune serial blast case and the German Bakery blast incident. It added another feather to its cap when it apprehended suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abu Jundal alias Sayyed Zabiuddin.

Jundal is a prized catch as he is accused of being involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and is accused in several cases, such as the Ahmedabad railway station blast on February 19, 2006; Aurangabad arms haul case of May 2006, and co-accused in the German Bakery blast case.

The special cell also succeeded in tracing the conspirators of the Pune serial blasts with the arrest of five suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives. Explosives, detonators and
other incriminating material were also recovered from them.

Srivastava said the department hopes to be more effective by gathering intelligence and developing a comprehensive database of terrorist outfits and their operatives through sustained interrogation of the arrested IM members.

“Any information gathered from them could be vital in our fight against terrorism,” Srivastava said.

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