Chink in the armour: Delhi cops in peril
Recently, a team of eight cops positioned itself near a secret location on Delhi's outskirts to catch a trigger-happy criminal.
"It was very hot and humid. Three of us were wearing 10-kg bulletproof jackets. We had to frequently walk to our vehicles, stationed far away, and come back," said one of the cops.
The team managed to nab the target. "But by the time the six-hour operation ended, we were all sweating and exhausted," the policeman said.
The group was still lucky. A large number of cops who conduct raids and confront heavily armed gangs don't have the mandatory metal vests at all to protect themselves.
If sources are to be believed, Delhi Police is short of 7,000 body armours. Of the 90,000 cops, 10,000 need the safety gear, but only 3,000 have it, sources said. In 2016, Delhi Police had only 250 bulletproof jackets, they said.
"There is a shortage of bulletproof jackets. These days, even first-time offenders have firearms and it's a huge risk to confront them without wearing bulletproof jacket as they instantly fire at policemen," said Delhi Police spokesperson Madhur Verma.
The relevant department has been asked to buy ballistic-resistant vests on priority and files are being processed, said sources, adding that both Indian and global products are being looked at. Sharat Kumar Sinha, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Provisioning and Logistics), said, "We're in the process of procuring more than 2,000 bulletproof jackets within five months."
Heavyweight jackets resist bullets from automatic guns such as SLRs and AK-47s. Lightweight ones protect cops from small-arm bullets.
"Delhi Police will also opt for middleweight jackets to protect cops from bullets fired by submachine guns, shotguns and even AK-series rifles," Verma said.
While the existing vest comes at around Rs 40,000, the new one, much lighter, could cost around Rs 1 lakh, said sources.
Strong fibers in body armours catch bullets and absorb and disperse the energy of the impact. The gear is crucial in saving precious lives. Last month, Delhi cops arrested four Jaish-e-Mohammed militants after an encounter and showed off bullet-ridden vests, saying, "They saved us."
In January, five members of a gang were arrested after a dramatic chase in Rohini, but not before they fired six rounds at cops. Two of them survived because they were wearing the protective vest.
CRIMINALS 'GO LIGHT'
Last year, a sharpshooter from Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj, who was carrying a bounty, was nabbed following a brief encounter in Delhi's Okhla Mandi. "He survived because he was wearing, inside his shirt, a bulletproof jacket weighing only around 2.5 kg," said an official who was part of the gunbattle.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking at the India Today Conclave 2019, said on Saturday that previous governments failed to provide even a single bulletproof jacket to security forces between 2009 and 2014. "We managed to procure 2,30,000 for our armed forces," he said.