For once, the state government cannot blame it on central apathy. The West Bengal Police has lost out on a minimum central grant of Rs 90 crore, meant for modernisation, as the state finance department has failed to provide the matching grant for three consecutive financial years, including the current one.
According to home department sources, the government of West Bengal is not going to get any central assistance for police modernisation this year, despite most of its schemes having been approved “in principle”.
States like Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have received “substantial central assistance for police modernisation”, out of a pool of about Rs 1,000 crore, despite being ranked behind the Bengal force in terms of computerisation, as per the Bureau of Police Research and Development ratings.
The fault, say sources, lies squarely with the state finance department. The government of West Bengal had received nearly Rs 60 crore of central assistance for 2000-01 and 2001-02, but did not provide a matching grant.
“The formula was initially 50:50 and then it was scaled down to 75:25, the smaller being the state’s share. We requested the state to provide around Rs 200 crore to cover the previous years’ dues and this year’s share, but it came up with a figure of Rs 3 crore only,” said a senior officer.
Delhi, sources said, would have provided its share even if the state had pitched in with around Rs 50 crore. “But Rs 3 crore was ridiculous and the state home department was in no position to request the central agency for the grant,” they added.
The lack of funds will hit the 60,000-strong state police “very badly”, especially at a time when the Aftab Ansari case and the like have shifted focus on Calcutta acting as a transit route for crime. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has repeatedly expressed “serious concern” about the increasing trend of “international crime” in the state.
Experts complained that the lack of modern arms, as well as drying of resources for intelligence agencies, are to be primarily blamed for this development. Sources in the state home department confirmed that “the sectors to be most affected by the funds crunch include arms and ammunition and equipment for intelligence-gathering”.
The other areas to suffer for the finance ministry’s inability to forward the grant are “ mobility, housing, computerisation, forensic science and other security-related equipment”.
West Bengal Police remains one of the “poorest in the country in terms of infrastructure”, officials pointed out.