Working for the police department has its perks, but families of Delhi Police personnel complain that estate facilities exist largely on paper. The Sunday Guardian visited three police colonies in the capital largely inhabited by families of lower rank personnel appointed in the Delhi Police department. Poor maintenance, clogged drainage systems and overflowing dumpsters were among the common complaints people had. While the maintenance work is generally outsourced by the police department, the responsibility to clear garbage is with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which mostly lacks in efficiency.
The police colony located right opposite the upmarket Ansal Plaza in Andrews Ganj in South Delhi clearly shows the grim conditions of the 300 police quarters in this area, mostly occupied by police officers below the rank of ACPs, including constables, head constables, sub-inspectors and inspector rank police officers. The buildings here are almost 60 years old and in a dilapidated condition, with most parts of the buildings wearing a dreary look. Many of the structures have started to fall off and there is an urgent need for immediate maintenance of these buildings. Not surprisingly, the Public Works Development (PWD) has also marked the buildings here as “Unsafe Structure”.
Staircases here are broken, a part of the roof of the building had fallen off recently, shrubs have grown all over the place, the monsoon rain had left many places waterlogged and the garbage pit outside the colony emits a stink. However, police officers residing here have been maintaining their houses on their own and a look inside their houses gives a completely different picture.
The houses, which are mostly two-bedroom quarters, are spic and span inside and all quarters here are regularly maintained by those living there.
A police personnel of the rank of sub-inspector complained to The Sunday Guardian that the Delhi Police does not maintain their complex and the buildings and the complex here have not been maintained for the last 20 years. “Delhi Police gets a lot of money, but they don’t spend a single penny to refurbish or maintain the structures from outside and the structures are on the verge of breaking down any time. However, we have been maintaining our houses ourselves and have spent thousands of rupees to remodel and refurbish our houses. Why can’t they use the money to give us a good housing complex and maintain these structures?” he asked.
He also contradicted the “Unsafe Structure” remark put up by the PWD and said, “These structures are not unsafe, they need maintenance. I have lived here all my life and nothing has happened. Do you think that a building falls just like that?”
The Delhi Police gets annual funds of Rs 330 crore from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for welfare and estate development of the police personnel in Delhi.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, the wife of another police officer also corroborated the argument that the structures are not unsafe, but the buildings need maintenance—something that has not been done in the past many years. “Not a single penny is spent on these buildings and their maintenance. We have been complaining for so many years, but to no avail. Recently, a part of the roof had fallen from the top floor, and the debris is still lying outside. That too has not been removed. The drains and pipes also require regular maintenance. Delhi Police does nothing, instead we get it done.”
It must be mentioned here that the Delhi Police is contemplating on demolishing this colony and awaiting the funds from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Sumita Rai, a resident of Malviya Nagar police colony, whose husband is a constable in Delhi Police, said, “I know other police families and I have seen the condition of their homes, which is a lot worse than ours. In my experience, Delhi Police is a lot better than other state police departments. Of course, there is room for improvement, but I don’t want to complain, knowing that people are living in worse conditions.”
A police personnel working in the civil engineering department of the Delhi Police, requesting anonymity, said, “There is an acute shortage of funds. We only get 25% of what we need. The amount of money we receive is only enough for simple repairs and not for structural renovation of the building. The quarters of the Malviya Nagar police colony were built in the 1960s and have not been renovated ever. The families have invested their own money to maintain their homes.”
The wife of a sub-inspector and a resident of the Malviya Nagar police colony, which has 513 quarters, said: “On Diwali, the police department grants some money for maintenance work and celebration costs, but I cannot see where that money has been used. A few months ago, there was a pile of tiles lying here which we were told would be used for the public space in the colony. The pile is gone now and you can go around the colony to find where those tiles have been used. I cannot see them anywhere in the colony.”
Her daughter added, “There is some construction going on in the backyard of our quarters, which in everyone’s opinion is futile. The space behind our quarters has narrow lanes which we were able to use for community gatherings, but there is a newly-constructed drain there. The drain is too wide and has not been covered. Moreover, it does not fulfil any purpose. If they had the money, they could have been used to clean the existing drains or to maintain the park instead.”
Another police colony in Model Town , which houses 264 quarters, had the same story to tell. Amid a strong stench and leaking walls, the wife of a constable said, “In 2013, all the houses in this colony were renovated in parts. Things got worse after that. The house always smells of cement and degrading bricks. The material they used for construction was of poor quality and now we have to suffer. Since these are small quarters, the ventilation is not good either.”
The Public Works Development has marked some buildings as “Unsafe Structure”. But the residents say that the buildings are not unsafe, but need proper maintenance.
An ex-police personnel said, “The dumpster right outside the colony has been there for months, but the MCD does not have time to clear it. It is the rainy season now and the stench gets worse in addition to becoming a breeding ground for all sorts of diseases. The department gets enough money to make necessary repairs, but the money is divided among the construction in-charge and police personnel. Otherwise, how else can you explain the disappearance of money if it is not being used for the purpose it was sanctioned?”
The Delhi Police, which has around 80,000 personnel, has 165 housing colonies, both big and small, spread across the national capital, yet the satisfaction in the police force in Delhi regarding housing is low.
However, the Delhi Police is working towards improving the housing conditions among the force. For this, the Special Commissioner of Police, Estate and Welfare, S. Vasudeva Rao has appointed six estate officers who look after the 40 police districts and units in Delhi along with the nodal officers, that is the DCPs and the unit heads.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, S. Vasudeva Rao said, “We have been working relentlessly to provide housing satisfaction to all our police personnel here, for which I personally look into the reports that I get from my estate officers. We focus on sanitation, garbage disposal, water stagnation, street lighting and mosquito menace in all our colonies. We attend to any complaint we receive from any of the housing complexes with urgency.”
“However, the maintenance of buildings is a task that requires a lot of money and we have been constantly making efforts to get funds from the Ministry of Home Affairs for the regular maintenance of these buildings. Many new housing colony projects are also underway to meet the demand for houses and many are already complete and ready to move in,” he added.