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Petrol pinch ends cops’ Bullet ride

The hike in petrol price has made Calcutta police bite the bullet.

After four decades of patrolling the streets and chasing criminals on Royal Enfield Classic 350 motorcycles, Calcutta police are replacing the bulky red rides with smaller, more fuel-efficient models.

As part of a deal with TVS Motors, Lalbazar has bought 120 white Apache RTR 160s since March and plans to buy more such bikes in the next few months.

“The new bikes are much cheaper and consume much less fuel than the Enfield bikes. The maintenance charges of the new bikes are also lower,” said Soumen Mitra, additional commissioner of police (traffic).

While a Royal Enfield Classic 350, or Bullet 350, costs Rs 1,09,000 and provides a mileage of 25kmpl, an Apache RTR 160 comes at only Rs 73,000 and provides a mileage of 45kmpl. At 136kg, the Apache is much lighter than the 182kg Bullet 350.

“The new 160cc motorbikes, which have high pick-up, will allow cops to move faster through congested city roads than on larger and heavier 350cc Enfield bikes. So far only the sergeants of police stations have been provided with the new bikes. However, once a set of 600 new sergeants are recruited in the Calcutta police in the next few months, they will also be provided with the new bikes,” said a senior Calcutta police officer.

While senior officers are certain about the benefits of the switch, sergeants and officers who have been asked to ride the new bikes are not so sure.

“The red Royal Enfield has an imposing presence. Often, criminals flee the moment they hear the thump of the bike’s engine or catch a glimpse of a sergeant astride it. The new white bikes do not command that kind of respect,” said an officer of Tollygunge police station who has been riding Royal Enfield bikes for 20 years.

Calcutta police have been using bulky bikes since Independence. While a few Norton ES2 and Norton Big Four bikes were retained by the cops, the Royal Enfield 350 were among the first bikes inducted into the force.

The lightweight Yamaha RD350 bikes were tried out for a short while in the late-1960s. They had to be phased out because of shortage of spare parts. Since then, Calcutta police have stuck to Bullet 350.

As a result, with the cops using the Bullet 350 bikes for over the past four decades, the big red bike and aviator glasses had become very much a part of their uniform.

“The red Bullet, white uniform and aviator glasses are what attracted me to apply for the post of sergeant in the first place. But if they now change the bikes and hand us a simple sports bike it is extremely disheartening,” said a sergeant undergoing training at the police training school in Calcutta.

The officers of the police stations who have been asked to discard the old bikes and ride the new sleek sports bikes have a different complaint.

“We have long been used to sitting straight while riding the bikes. But with the new sports bike we have to crouch forward and since all of us are more or less pot-bellied, it has become very painful. As a result, the bikes remain stranded at the police stations and at times are used by the juniors,” said another officer of Amherst Street police station.

According to officials of TVS Motors, they had approached Calcutta police with the proposal to buy the new bikes after Royal Enfield cited shortage of supply when the cops had approached them for a fresh order.

“The Apache bikes have the highest power and mileage in their category. They can go from 0 to 60kmph in 4.8 seconds and also have a mileage of 45kmpl. We are supplying these bikes to cops in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. They are the best bikes for quick movement on congested city roads,” said Pradip Kumar, senior manager, TVS Motors, Calcutta.