The Union budget for 2019-’20 increased funding for police modernisation by 8% over the previous year, but government data over five years to 2017 show that in many states, the modernisation budget remains under-utilised, even as many of them lack elementary infrastructures such as telephones, wireless devices and transport vehicles.

Modernisation includes the upgradation of weapons, communications systems including wireless devices and satellite networks and the development of forensic infrastructure including labs and training of manpower, among other matters. Altogether, the utilisation of police forces’ modernisation budget was less than half, that is 48%, of the funding available, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data.

“The central government releases grants for modernisation, which the state has to match,” MN Singh, former Police Commissioner of Mumbai, told IndiaSpend. “States don’t always release modernisation funds. This needs to be changed.”

Meanwhile, in this year’s budget, the allocation for police infrastructure – distinct from the modernisation allocation and including such heads as maintenance of existing vehicles, basic weapons and telephones – actually declined by 2%.

As a result, police forces across India lack weapons and fundamental communications and transport infrastructure – 267 police stations had no telephones and 129 had no wireless communication devices as of January 2017, as per the latest available data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development. There were eight vehicles for every 100 police personnel for responding to distress calls, patrolling and maintaining law and order in their jurisdictions.

The number of police stations functioning without wireless communication devices across India increased by 231% from 39 in 2012 to 129 by the end of 2016. At the beginning of 2017, 273 police stations across the country did not possess a single transportation vehicle.

Communications infrastructure

More than half of the police stations without wireless communication devices were in three states: Manipur had 30 such stations, Jharkhand had 22 such stations and Meghalaya had 18 such stations. Manipur ranked 28th among all states and union territories in terms of crime rate – 121.9 per 100,000 people, when the worst possible rank was 36th while Meghalaya ranked 29th with a crime rate of 120.4 per 100,000 people and Jharkhand ranked 30th with a crime rate of 120.9 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, the number of police stations functioning without telephones declined by 10% from 296 in 2012 to 269 in 2017.

More than 45% of the stations without telephones were in three states: Uttar Pradesh with 51 such stations, Bihar with 41 such stations and Punjab with 30 such stations. Uttar Pradesh ranked 26th among all states and union territories with a crime rate of 128.7 per 100,000 people, Bihar 22nd with a crime rate of 157.4 per 100,000 people and Punjab 24th with a crime rate of 137 per 100,000 people.

At the start of 2017, 51 police stations across the country had neither telephones nor wireless communication devices – down from 100 stations in 2012. More than half of these were located in the North Eastern states of Manipur, with 15 such stations and Meghalaya, with 12 such stations.

“With greater transport and communication equipment, the police can patrol a greater area more efficiently,” Singh said. “Wireless communication devices, mobiles and vehicles are imperatives today. If anything happens, the police need to be able to communicate well to address the issue. With better communication and transportation, one policeman can do as much work as ten policemen.”

Transport infrastructure

At the end of 2016, Indian police forces had, on average, one transport vehicle for 12.38 police personnel – an improvement from 15 per vehicle at the end of 2011.

Availability of transport infrastructure per 100 police personnel rose 19% from 6.78 by the end of 2011 to 8.08 in by the end of 2016, due largely to a 500% increase in the number of vehicles such as mine-proof vehicles, forensic vans, prison trucks and water tankers from 1,255 in 2011 to 7,536 in 2016.

The number of medium and light vehicles such as cars and jeeps increased only 21% from 76,088 light vehicles in 2012 to 92,043 light vehicles in 2016.

Yet, 273 police stations across the country had no transportation facilities by the end of 2016. Almost 90% of these were located in insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh with 126 stations, neighbouring Telangana with 91 such stations and Manipur with 25 such stations, which also experiences internal conflict.

Uttar Pradesh, with 30 police personnel per vehicle, Mizoram with 22 and Himachal Pradesh with 18 had the fewest transport facilities per 100 police personnel in 2017.

Weapons shortage

Meanwhile, several state police forces operate with subpar weapons and communications infrastructure, as the Comptroller and Auditor General found after examining five states from 2014 to 2018.

In Uttar Pradesh, in particular, of the initial demand of Rs 69.91 crore under the Modernisation of State Police Forces scheme, only 55% or Rs 38.31 crore was allocated and only Rs 32.99 crore – 47% of the initial demand – was utilised, as per the Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2017 audit of the state. Nearly half, 48%, the police force was using weaponry that the home ministry had declared outdated over 20 years ago.

In Rajasthan, the Comptroller and Auditor General reported a 75% paucity of weapons in 2015 compared to the recommended quantum between 2009 and 2014. The state police required 15,884 weapons, of which they had received 3,962 weapons, or 25%, at the time of the audit. Of these, 2,350, or 59% weapons were in storage and not distributed to the police stations.

Therefore, police stations in Rajasthan received only 14.7% of the requisite weapons and faced a shortage of more than 85%.

The audit in West Bengal found a 71% weapons shortfall; Karnataka and Gujarat had a shortfall of 37% and 36%, respectively.

Erratic utilisation

The modernisation budget, according to the Bureau of Police Research and Development, helps to upgrade police infrastructure – constructing people-friendly police stations and posts and improving mobility, weaponry and communication equipment.

However, states’ utilisation of these funds has been erratic. Across India, over five years to 2017, less than half, or 48% that is Rs 13,720 crore of the overall modernisation budget of Rs 28,703 crore was utilised.

From 87% utilisation in 2014, all-India utilisation of modernisation funds fell to 14% in 2016, only to rise again to 75% in 2017.

Among states, Nagaland alone used all of its allocations for modernisation of Rs 1,172 crore through the financial year 2015-’16, Bureau of Police Research and Development data show. Jammu and Kashmir spent around 45% of its modernisation budget, Rs 40 crore out of Rs 89.59 crore. Uttar Pradesh used 23% – Rs 26.31 crore – of its Rs 116.66 crore.

The modernisation of communications infrastructure is also incomplete in several states.

Uttar Pradesh spent 28% or Rs 56 crore of its budgetary allocation of Rs 137 crore to enhance its communications infrastructure during 2011-’12 to 2015-’16, Comptroller and Auditor General said.

In Karnataka, from 2013-’14 to 2016-’17, only Rs 6.93 crore was released against the initial demand of Rs 15.93 crore for the procurement of updated communications equipment, of which none were utilised as of 2018, another Comptroller and Auditor General report found. In 2018, all of the 43,636 communication sets such as wireless devices and walkie-talkies with the state police were past their recommended lifespan.

“Policing now has become technology-centric,” Singh said. “The police must modernise and expand its capabilities with respect to cyber-crime, currency flight, international trafficking, and other such crimes of enormous dimensions. We must also improve our capabilities with regard to cyber forensics, which is important today.”

In 2002, India set up a satellite-based communication network called Police Telecommunication Network to enable faster communication between the police and paramilitary forces.

As of 2016, only 51% that is 38 districts of 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh had functional Police Telecommunication Network infrastructure, Comptroller and Auditor General found.

In Gujarat, the entire Police Telecommunication Network system was either out of order or absent in October 2015, Comptroller and Auditor General found and observed a 32% deficit in trained manpower to operate the relevant equipment, as of March 2015.

Gujarat spent none of the Rs 31.81 crores it received in 2013 and 2014 to upgrade its urban policing infrastructure. From 2009-’10 to 2014-’15, as much as 73% of the funds Gujarat received for this purpose remained unspent.

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.