Manoj Kumar (name changed) takes his duty seriously. Never mind that he stands guard before a coffee-coloured tarpaulin held up by six stilts, which serves as the police station in Burari.
“Yes, this is a police station and a fully functional one at that,” he says.
“The top of our tent was ripped off in the storm which hit Delhi in May this year. We had to re-construct the tent in June again. The heat hits us as badly as the cold,” he says. As for the rain, the less said the better, Kumar says. “We almost shut shop when it rains in this part of the city.”
The United Nations last month, in its revision of the World Urbanisation Prospects report (2014), declared Delhi the world’s second-most populous city with 25 million inhabitants — Tokyo came first with a population of 38 million.
And the 75,000-strong Delhi Police is the largest metropolitan police force in the world. Yet, 72 of the total 181 police stations in the city are currently functioning out of temporary structures for want of funds and land, says a status report the Delhi Police submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs recently. Some of these police stations function out of temporary structures like tents or porta cabins, the report says.
The Special Cell office and the police stations in Burari, Kapashera, DBG Road, IGI Airport, Badarpur, Maurice Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Preet Vihar, Jaitpur, Kotla Mubarakpur, New Delhi railway station, Sarai Rohilla railway station, Jamia Nagar and Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station are housed in temporary structures.
“Tents give us the most trouble. Porta cabins are slightly better as they can, to some extent, withstand the weather conditions. Since they are made of sheets of plastic fibre with a one-inch thick thermocol layer in between, we can make space for windows and air-conditioners,” says a station house officer of one such police station in Southwest Delhi.
According to the report, 13 police stations work out of rented buildings while three have set up base in residential or office buildings owned by the citizenry.
An ACP at a South Delhi police station says, “The monthly rent for some of these buildings are as high as Rs 1 lakh. In fact, the cumulative rent paid over the years by these police stations is enough to buy land and build stations.”
Besides, the status report says 15 police stations have to make do with buildings too small for a fully functional station. They are classified under the head ‘Police Stations running in Police Post Buildings’.
The station house officer of one such police station said the premises he works in is so small that the cars his men impound have to be parked on the road outside.
“We are unable to efficiently run the Women’s Help Desk, which all stations were directed to set up after the December 16 gangrape case.
Women complainants have no privacy as the desk shares space with other male officers. The male officers on night duty have no space to rest because the barracks don’t have enough rooms to accommodate more than four persons at a time. So most of them live in rented rooms nearby,” he says.
The report states that 21 station buildings are under construction. Land has been allotted for 16 stations, but construction is yet to begin and and 35 police stations have not been allotted land as yet.
When funds are available, land is not
The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution marks police powers as a state subject. However, when Delhi was accorded autonomous statehood in 2003, its police and public order powers were kept under the purview of the Central government. Therefore, it is not the state government but the Ministry of Home Affairs which decides how much money the Delhi Police will be sanctioned in a financial year.
In the current financial year, Rs 337 crore was sanctioned to the Delhi Police for land and buildings. A sum of Rs 186 crore was sanctioned in 2012-13 and Rs 232 crore in 2013-14.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Land and Buildings) V A Gupta says, “In the beginning of the current Five-Year Plan, the Delhi Police showed a requirement of Rs 2,000 crore for land and buildings. But the government could give only Rs 1,117 crore. As a result, a number of projects could not be taken up. We need more funds to start work on pending proposals. This relates to police housing also.”
In several cases in which fund was allotted to build a police station, the force could not find land in the area concerned.
Once the population of an area touches 2.5 lakh or more, a police station has to be assigned there. However, if space has been allotted for only one station during zoning by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and another has to come up, the problem of land availability crops up. Also, need for new police buildings might arise because of frequency and nature of crimes in an area.
For instance, the Safdarjung Enclave or the Vasant Kunj South police stations came up as a result of an increase in population under the existing Swarup Nagar and Vasant Kunj North police stations, respectively. Once the need for the new police stations arose, the same were commissioned and formed. However, since there was no land available, the two new police stations were forced to share space with the older police stations.
DDA spokesperson Neemo Dhar says, “The DDA has earmarked space for all essential services like schools and police stations while zoning land in the city. Yes, the land allotted might be small in surface area, but it has been earmarked for police nevertheless. Most of the time, the land is encroached upon or police do not have the money to buy the plot we set aside for them. Also, population increase in areas like Kotla Mubarakpur and the outer urban villages of Delhi do not come under our Master Plan. So, the problem of building police stations there becomes a more complex procedure altogether.”
Because spending on police services in the country comes under the planned expenditure head, all expenses for police have to be shown as a proposed estimate or a proposed plan outlay (at the beginning of a Five-Year Plan) after which the government allocates a fixed amount accordingly. Therefore, when the chance comes to buy an empty plot or begin construction if land is available during a particular Plan, police have to wait to propose expenditure in the next Five-Year Plan.
Lack of housing a constant worry
It is not just in the case of official buildings that the police force is feeling the pinch. The lack of adequate housing for its staff is also a matter of concern.
Police sources said there is an urgent need to enhance the Budget allocation to take up housing projects for Delhi Police staff. A source said the satisfaction level as far as housing is concerned for the 75,000-strong Delhi Police is as low as 18.6 per cent — only 18 out of 100 police personnel have been provided houses in the city. This figure, the source said, is perhaps the lowest in the country.
“Police residences are a problem. Besides the barracks attached to police stations, there are few housing facilities within the city. The barracks are packed with male personnel. So no one wants to house families there. And when the men in the force are unable to live with their families, owing to the stressful nature of the job, their mental and physical health is affected adversely. Those who prefer to live with families have to make do with cheap rented accommodations in far-flung areas like Burari, Bawana and Narela. As it takes hours to commute, they often prefer to stay over in the barracks than go back home,” Harender Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Headquarters), said.
Currently, there are 15,000 quarters for housing police personnel in the city. Of these, around 2,000 are in Southwest district, 800 in West district, 1,700 in South district, 360 in Southeast district, 870 in East district, 320 in Northeast district, 3,500 in Northwest district, 3,000 in Outer district, 780 in North district, 260 in Central district and 450 in New Delhi district. Besides, residential quarters in police lines and an additional 1,000 quarters allotted by various other bodies for use by Delhi Police personnel bring up the tally.
The contractors or bodies responsible for building police staff quarters are RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service), the HPL (Hindustan Prefab Ltd), the NBCC (National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd), the UPSKNN (Uttar Pradesh Samaj Kalyan Nirman Nigam Ltd), the CPWD (Central Public Works Department) and the PWD (Public Works Department).
The status report of August 2014 states that 2,000 quarters are under construction.
Seven projects were awarded to contractors after June 2014.
In July this year, the government approved a project to build 5,000 residential quarters in Dheerpur, Northwest Delhi, under a PPP model.
INTERVIEW with V A GUPTA, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Land and Buildings)
What are the basic problems in the way of mobilising resources and money for construction of police station buildings?
Funds and land availability are the primary problems. In the beginning of the current Five-Year Plan, the Delhi Police showed a requirement of Rs 2,000 crore for land and buildings. But the police could get only Rs 1,117 crore. As a result, a number of projects could not be taken up. We need additional funds to start work on pending proposals relating to police housing. Moreover, there is a shortage of land in Delhi.
What are the alternatives for generating resources other than Central funds?
The government has its own budgetary constraints. It can allot only a limited amount in phases. A good alternative is the PPP model the Delhi Police has adopted for the construction of a new Police Headquarters on Parliament Street and police residences in Dheerpur. In this, the private companies also generate revenue while the burden of constructing the buildings on the government is not immediate because it can pay the amount in annuities or installments over a long period of time.
Does not having one’s own premises to work from or live in affect the efficiency of police?
Ideally, each police station should have its own building. It gives a sense of identity and makes for a healthy work environment. It definitely improves the morale of police.
What is the way forward?
We are projecting our demand for funds at various levels and hope to get it. Moreover, Delhi is the capital of the country and its police is an elite force. Ideally, the Delhi Police should be a model for the rest of the country. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make land available for police buildings and residences as well as allot sufficient funds for the same.