The Mumbai Police, which had gone to great lengths to bring back a horse-mounted unit back in its force after a gap of 88 years, is now in the process of disbanding the unit due to feasibility and practicality issues, said a senior Mumbai Police official.
As reported by the Indian Express in March 2019, the state home department had sanctioned Rs 1.50 crore to Mumbai Police to keep 30 horses for patrolling. In November 2018, the then police commissioner, Subodh Jaiswal, had submitted a proposal to the state government to incorporate horses in the force for monitoring large public gatherings.
The government sanctioned the proposal in March 2019 and a 2.5-acre plot at Mumbai Police headquarters in Andheri East was identified to build stables, a riding school, a sand bath and a swimming pool for horses along with an administrative unit for riders. Additional provisions were made in the police budget for the upkeep of the horses. The idea to bring back the old method stemmed from the belief that constables astride horses were seen as more capable of commanding fear and respect from an unruly crowd, something that they may not succeed in doing on the ground.
Fashion designer Manish Malhotra designed the uniform for the riders, and the Mumbai Police, announcing the commencement of the unit, even tweeted a video of a police constable atop a horse on the beach. The unit was started by bringing in 13 horses and training them for months to get used to crowded places and noise to ensure that they can aid policemen on busy stretches of the city’s beaches and promenades. A special police team was also made to ride the horses.
However, the pandemic and the resultant lockdown kept police personnel busy in enforcing rules and following other duties. “It was becoming difficult for us to keep the horses healthy and other maintenance costs were also not feasible. Out of the 13 horses, five died due to health issues. There were other practicality issues as well. So higher-ups decided to disband the unit. It’s decided that few of the remaining horses will be sent to the police academy in Nashik,” said a senior Mumbai Police official.