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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Why is the government going to cut Rs 3bn from the Punjab police budget?

The provincial government is going to inflict a huge cut of Rs3 billion on the Punjab police budget to combat the deadly COVID-19. The police officials believe that the cut in the budget is likely to prove counterproductive in the longer run. What can the police do?

In the time of deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government has inflicted a huge cut of Rs3 billion on the Punjab police budget.  The drastic cut in the budget has raised some pertinent questions with regard to how the police are going to operate if there are no required funds to carry out the official responsibilities.

Interestingly, two months ago, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat claimed that the government is soon going to increase the budget of the provincial police department.

Previously, the police were given Rs525 to investigate one murder case, he said, adding that the amount will be increased to Rs35,000. He remarked that the police will hire 10,000 more people.

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Notably, in 2019 Raja Basharat told the provincial assembly “if the 1934 Police Act is taken as a benchmark, the Punjab police need another 20,000 officials to meet the law and order requirements in the province”.

Punjab is to inflict a cut of Rs3 billion on the Punjab police budget

Dawn, Pakistan’s respected English daily, published a report and claimed that the government has slashed Rs400 million from the funds allocated for fuel, Rs77 million from cost of investigation, Rs41m stationary, Rs120m electricity bills and Rs250m even from the grant meant for provision of financial assistance to the families of the deceased police officials.

While quoting sources the newspaper maintained that the “shocking” development came at a time when the virus had claimed the lives of four police officials, while 650 others tested positive in Punjab so far.

“If the cut is aimed at diverting the slashed amount to fund the government’s anti-Corona initiatives, no one deserved the funding more than police as it has so far reported the highest number of positive cases among the government departments in Punjab”, commented brother of a police constable who died of Covid-19 in Lahore recently.

According to a report, “in Punjab, on paper at least, a paltry Rs20,000 is the maximum amount allocated for case investigations, the officials explained. The complete sum, they said, is only reserved for major criminal cases like murder or kidnapping for ransom. Cases of robbery are only allocated between Rs10,000 and Rs11,000.”

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The report further noted that: “The entire investigation must be completed within the aforementioned sum, something the officials said is next to impossible to do with honesty and integrity. And if that detail was not so bad on its own, officials said in 95 percent of cases, inquiry officers never even receive that budget.”

Cutting the budget is unjustified, officials

Dawn also quoted an official source who said that the cut was unjustified as Punjab police department had already got just Rs180 million out of Rs250 million allocated for the cost of investigation, while the originally required amount was Rs2.3 billion.

He regretted the operational budget of Punjab police had been decreasing with each passing year, making it difficult for the force to fund its day-to-day operations.

He said the police’s share in the total provincial budget had decreased from 9 percent in 2011-12 to 5pc in 2019-20.“In its budget, the salary component is increasing, while the operational component is declining as the only 15pc of the total budget is reserved for its operations”, the official lamented.

At the start of the financial year 2019-20, he said, Rs117 billion budget had been allocated for the Punjab police. Of the amount, Rs100 billion was reserved for salaries, while Rs17 billion was to be released for the department’s operational expenditures.

“To our utter shock, only Rs14 billion were released, slapping a drastic cut of Rs3 billion in the operational expenditures”, he said.

Out of the available Rs114 billion, Rs100 billion would go in salaries, Rs4.5 billion for fuel, while around Rs1billion for electricity bills.

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Similarly, he said, an amount of Rs4 billion would be left to meet the basic requirements of other units of the police, including special branch, elite force, counter-terrorism department, traffic, special protection unit, training, etc. The remaining amount would be used for other heads of the Punjab Police, the police official said.