The ghastly Mumbai 26/11 attack in 2008 that caused the unfortunate deaths of over 164 people and left over 300 injured also laid bare glaring loopholes in the security preparedness of the police guarding India’s financial capital. Close to a decade since a series of coordinated attacks rattled the city for four days, the Maharashtra police are still struggling to upgrade their preparedness to deal with a similar situation, if it were to ever arise.
The efficacy of bulletproof vests, an issue which had triggered a major controversy following the death of Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare during the Mumbai attacks, still remains unresolved. The last visuals of Karkare showed him wearing a bulletproof jacket before the jeep he was travelling in was attacked by terrorists in south Mumbai. Apparently, the controversy continues to take its toll on the readiness of the state’s police force.
Reports said on Sunday that over 1,400 of the 4,600 bulletproof vests that the Maharashtra police had received in the aftermath of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack have been returned after being found ineffective against AK-47 bullets during trials. The jackets were part of the 5,000 vests that the state police had procured from a Kanpur-based manufacturing company in three different batches.
“We have sent back more than 1,400 bulletproof jackets to their manufacturer as they did not pass our test with AK-47 bullets,” Additional Director General of Police (Procurement and Coordination), VV Laxminarayana told PTI. The Maharashtra police had ordered 5,000 jackets from the manufacturer at a cost of Rs 17 crore. However, only 4,600 vests were delivered after factoring in customs duty and other charges. The UP-based manufacturer provides similar jackets to other central security forces as well.
According to officials, trials conducted on the 4,600 vests at the Chandigarh-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory threw up alarming results, with just 3,000 jackets able to sustain bullet shots from AK-47s. The rest of the 1,430 jackets were rejected and the Maharashtra police have asked the manufacturer to replace the 1,430 jackets with fresh stock. “There will be no compromise on the quality and standards of the bulletproof jackets and we will take a delivery from the same manufacturer after testing those bulletproof jackets again,” an official told PTI.
The vests, which the police began receiving towards the end of 2017, just before the ninth anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, are also meant to be used by police personnel during anti-Maoist operations in Gadchiroli district and in other pockets, by the Quick Response Team (QRT) of Mumbai Police and the Force One, the elite commando force raised after the terror strikes.
Notably, the controversy over the bulletproof vests that Karkare’s death triggered was among the major causes why no company was willing to provide these jackets despite multiple tenders floated by the Maharashtra police since the 2008 attacks.