Eknath Shinde. Photo: ANI
Mumbai: Some of the vehicles procured by the Mumbai Police earlier this year under the Nirbhaya Fund to fight crime against women are being used for providing Y-plus security to the MLAs and MPs of the Shiv Sena faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, a police official said on Sunday.
In June this year, the city police force procured 220 Boleros, 35 Ertigas, 313 Pulsar motorcycles and 200 Activa two-wheelers using the Rs 30 crore corpus that it had received under the Nirbhaya fund.
The development prompted the opposition Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to attack the Shinde-led government, as they asked if the security of the ruling legislators was more important than protecting women.
The Nirbhaya Fund is being given to the state governments by the Centre since 2013 to implement schemes related to women's safety.
"After the vehicles were procured in June, they were distributed to all 97 police stations, cyber, traffic and coastal police units in July," the official said.
"Of these vehicles, 47 Boleros were requisitioned from several police stations by the Motor Transport Department of the Mumbai Police following an order from the VIP Security section of the state police stating that they are required for use as an escort vehicle for MPs and MLAs of the Shinde faction to provide Y-Plus security cover to them," he said.
However, 17 of the vehicles which were used for the security of these lawmakers were returned to police stations after the requirement was fulfilled, he added.
"But 30 Boleros are yet to be returned, which has impacted the police patrolling in the jurisdiction of respective police stations," the official said.
Hitting out at the state government, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, "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."
NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto said, "SUVs bought with Nirbhaya Fund diverted to provide Y-plus security to Shinde legislators. Shameful misuse of power by the Shinde-Fadnavis government. Eknath Shinde's legislators must hang their heads in shame."
President of NCP's Maharashtra unit Jayant Patil said the Nirbhaya Fund was set up by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the protection of women.
"It is shocking that vehicles procured for helping the police to carry out their duties of protecting women are being misused for the protection of the breakaway MLAs.
"On one hand the chief minister claims to have the support of the people and on the other hand, each of the breakaway MLA and MP is being provided Y-plus category security which comprises five police personnel," he said.
"If people are with you, what do you fear?" he asked.
Patil demanded the vehicles be sent back to the respective police stations and said the security of women was more important than the security of the breakaway legislators.
Taking an aggressive stand, the Shiv Sena (UBT) said the Shinde dispensation would have to face protests if the vehicles are not deployed for the purpose for which they were acquired.
Addressing a press conference, Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said if the needful is not done in seven days, then her party would protest.
"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.
Shiv Sena (UBT) legislator Manisha Kayande wanted to know who had ordered the diversion of these vehicles for such private use. PTI