On December 16, 2012, the central government set up a dedicated ‘Nirbhaya fund’ to implement initiatives aimed at improving the safety and security of women in India, following the murder and rape of a 23-year-old woman in the national capital. Since 2013, the Nirbhaya fund has been distributed to state governments for the purpose of implementing women’s safety programs.
Through the fund, the Mumbai Police received Rs 30 crores in June this year, to purchase 220 Boleros, 35 Ertigas, 313 Pulsar motorcycles, and 200 Activa two-wheelers for use by 97 police stations, cyber, traffic, and coastal units.
As per reports, out of the 220 Bolero vehicles procured by the Mumbai Police, 47 had been taken away for the security of legislators and parliamentarians associated with the Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde-led Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.
The Shinde camp leaders had returned 17 of the vehicles after a few weeks to months, however, 30 vehicles were still being used to secure the camp, while local police stations were dealing with old, worn-out vehicles. When police stations were short of vehicles, officers frequently used vehicles belonging to other police stations, or even private vehicles in one case, to perform duties such as patrolling, taking accused criminals to court, and visiting crime scenes.
The development led the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Shiv Sena to attack the Shinde-led government by questioning if the security of ruling legislators was more important than ensuring women’s safety. Several opposition leaders like NCP MP Supriya Sule, former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Aaditya Thackeray, and Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant criticised the government for using vehicles designed for fighting women’s crimes. In a stern attack on the current state government, Sawant commented, “Is the security of ruling MLAs more important than protecting women from abuse? It is appalling and outrageous to see the Nirbhaya Fund, which is meant for the Nirbhayas of Maharashtra, being used for the security of MLAs.”
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi stated that the party would protest if the vehicles were not returned to the police within seven days. “This is nothing but embezzlement of government funds. The funds being provided by the Centre for a purpose are being used for private security,” she said.
The Hindustan Times reports that the VIP security department of the state on Friday, December 9, requisitioned 20 more Bolero SUVs from police stations in central and south Mumbai to escort the G-20 summit delegation. This is in addition to the 47 Boleros requisitioned by the department from various police stations and supplied as escort vehicles to Shinde faction MLAs and MPs for their Y-plus security protection, causing fury among opposition politicians. In defence, a police official stated that because these were new vehicles, they were appropriate for escorting the G-20 delegation.
“The vehicles were taken from police stations where the patrol squad could manage,” he said. An officer from Dadar Police Station said that his station had two Boleros, one for a police inspector and the other for the detection staff for patrolling and transporting the accused. “One of them was given,” he said.
In the wake of these reports, several of these vehicles have now been returned to the respective police stations. The Motor Transport (MT) unit of the Mumbai Police parked a few Bolero vehicles that were returned in its garage. The police sent these vehicles to local police stations by Monday night. Vehicles have been returned to the Shivaji Nagar, Ghatkopar, and Mulund police stations. All the vehicles will be returned to the respective police stations from where they were taken for the Shinde camp leaders’ security within a few days, according to sources.