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Explained: Why mounted police are back in Mumbai

A constable astride a horse is seen as more able to command fear and respect from an unruly crowd, which he or she might not have commanded on the ground.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Updated: January 23, 2020 7:48:18 am
Explained: Why mounted police are back in Mumbai In the week leading up to Republic Day, the horses have been staying at makeshift stables in Shivaji Park. From next week, they will return to stables in Karjat in Raigad district until the new facility is ready.

On Sunday, Mumbai Police announced the return of the force’s Mounted Unit after a gap of 88 years. For the last four months, the force has been training 13 horses and their riders for the Republic Day Parade at Shivaji Park, Dadar.

Why was the Mounted Unit discontinued?

In 1932, Bombay Police Commissioner Sir Patrick Kelly noted that the rising number of motor vehicles left little space for police horses to move about. Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police and police historian Rohidas Dusar said Kelly decided to replace the animals with patrol cars. The same year, a Motor Transport Unit replaced the Mounted Unit, and stables in South Mumbai, were replaced with garages, fuel pumps and parking spaces.

So, why revive the Mounted Unit?

A constable astride a horse is seen as more able to command fear and respect from an unruly crowd, which he or she might not have commanded on the ground. “Just because it is an old idea, that does not mean it is obsolete. All major cities of the world have mounted units. When used judiciously, they help a lot in crowd control,” said Pranaya Ashok, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) and Mumbai Police spokesperson.

Among the states, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, UP and West Bengal have mounted units, some of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Subedar (Retd) R T Nirmal, of the 61st Cavalry, who is training the Mumbai Police’s horses and riders, says the horses will be able to navigate Mumbai’s congested roads better. “A rider on a horse will be able to reach a spot much quicker than a police car and report back.”

How large is the unit?

In 2018, then Mumbai Police Commissioner and Subodh Kumar Jaiswal (now Maharashtra DGP) submitted a proposal to acquire 30 horses at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore. The government sanctioned the proposal in March last year, and a 2.5-acre plot at Mumbai Police headquarters in Andheri East was identified to build stables, a riding school, a sand bath, a swimming pool for horses and an administrative unit for riders. Additional provisions were made in the police budget for the upkeep of the horses.

In the week leading up to Republic Day, the horses have been staying at makeshift stables in Shivaji Park. From next week, they will return to stables in Karjat in Raigad district until the new facility is ready.

In a video tweeted by Mumbai Police, the riders wore a blue sherwani with silver trimming, white breeches and a pagdi designed by Manish Malhotra.

How and when will the unit be deployed?

The present stable of 13 — seven thoroughbreds named Padmakosha, Shivalik Skies, Divine Solitaire, Beekwerk, Severus and Golden Orchid and six Marwaris named Veer, Toophan, Shera, Chetak, Baadal and Bijli — is still several months away from being deployed. Schedules and details of deployment are yet to fixed.

Since last year, Subedar Nirmal has been getting them acclimatised to patrolling on the beach, walking in water and among dense crowds at Dadar Chowpatty. He also plans to get the horses used to walking on tar, concrete and paver-block surfaced roads, but they will not do so full time. “As and when a law and order situation arises, we will transport the horses to the spot by car and deploy them to bring crowds under control,” an official said.

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