The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police upgrade funds go abegging

New Delhi, Jan. 30: Even after the American Center terror attack in Calcutta last year exposed how ill-equipped the police were, the West Bengal government has failed to utilise the funds provided by the Centre to modernise the force.

Other states that have not touched the funds offered by the Union home ministry for 2001-02 include Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur —in insurgency-prone Northeast — as well as Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

The figures came up at a meeting of the consultative committee of the home ministry, convened by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Haryana, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu are five states at the other end of the spectrum — they have utilised 100 per cent of the funds.

Members cutting across party lines asked the government to find out why the states were not availing the facility provided by the Centre. Five states utilised 100 per cent of the funds, another 10 used 80 per cent, while in two states, the utilisation was 50 per cent, home ministry figures said.

The attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, has led to a rethink on internal security. The need to arm the police with better equipment is now one of the home ministry’s top priorities.

The Centre is working on a satellite-based telecommunication network, to be called Polnet, to integrate the communication requirements of all police forces in the country.

Connectivity and a databank on terrorist and criminal profiles nationwide will reduce police response time. Once an integrated system is in place, with the police and the paramilitary forces linked by voice, fax as well as multi-access radio telephones, the task of containing militants and the mafia may become easier. This scheme, to cost Rs 97 crore, will be funded as part of the modernisation drive.

The home ministry has been trying to encourage states to spend in the drive by providing 50 per cent of the cost. But with most states facing a cash-crunch and a few unable to even pay salaries in time, utilisation of funds has been poor.

Keeping this in mind, the review committee of the home ministry has recommended that the Centre raise its share to 75 per cent instead of the existing 50 per cent. This will be in the form of 50 per cent grant and 25 per cent loan, making it easier for the state to bear the remaining 25 per cent of the total expenditure on modernisation.

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