Mumbai: A little over six months after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the Maharashtra government is in the midst of a controversy over the quality of bulletproof jackets provided to Mumbai Police.
While Mumbai Police claim that the file on the purchase of bulletproof jackets has gone missing, CNN-IBN has learnt that the allegedly missing file does exist and there is suspicions that the quality of bulletproof jackets were simply not upto mark.
The image of 26/11 which haunted the country was ATS chief Hemant Karkare wearing a bulletproof jacket, moments before he was gunned down by terrorists.
Months later the quality of bulletproof jackets that were given to the Mumbai Police is snowballing into a major political controversy.
Opposition parties created a chaos and even flashed a bulletproof jacket in Maharashtra Assembly in a bid to target the state government.
There have been allegations of large-scale corruption in the procurement of the bulletproof jackets which failed miserably during the 26/11 terror attack.
"There seems to be huge scam in the procurement of these bullteproof jackets. These bulletproof jackets seem to be of inferior quality," alleged Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, Ramdas Kadam.
However, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan denied the allegations.
"I strongly deny of any corrupt practices being involved in the entire process of purchase, as alleged by the Opposition," said Chavan.
But the political blame game has now got another twist after the reply which the Mumbai Police gave to an RTI applicant seeking information on bulletproof jackets used by Mumbai Police.
The reply shockingly stated, "Since the file relating to bulletproof jackets cannot be found, the queries cannot be answered.''
But sources within the Mumbai Police have told CNN-IBN that the file was not lost, but was being protected from public scrutiny to possibly avoid controversial details from coming out in the open.
Sources have also told CNN-IBN that in 2004 samples of the bulletproof jackets were sent for a trial at the firing range of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF).
They were fitted on dummies and sprayed with and bullets from self-loading rifles (SLR) and AK-47.
Every single bullet went through the jackets even though the rounds were fired from a distance.
The trial was followed by an enquiry into the spurious jackets but the results of which were shrouded in mystery and now as the police has been claiming, lost along with the file.
Sources have claimed that the quality of cloth and special wire mesh used in the jackets was inferior and the vital steel plates were usually corroded.
On the other hand bulletproof jackets used in the US and UK are of Type 3 which can withstand carbine hits and even grenade shrapnel.
But few are willing to buy the government version that a crucial file can be lost.
Elections in Maharashtra are in October this year and the ghosts of 26/11 could still haunt the ruling party.
It is one reason why answers to the missing bulletproof file may have to be provided sooner rather than later.
CNN-IBN Correspondent Shoaib Ahmed reports that Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has promised an enquiry.
"The Chief Minister has promised there would be an enquiry into this. The file has records has number of jackets of purchased, when were they purchased, from whom were they purchased and what was the quality. The answer to these questions is in the file. The file also contains a vital report. It is an Anti-Corruption Bureau report after the 2004 and 2005 testing in which these jackets failed miserably. The report is still shrouded in mystery and no one knows what happened to the report. Police also claim that the report has also been lost," reports Ahmed.
"No senior police official is coming of record as to what has actually happened to the file. Highly placed sources in police say the file is not lost but is being deliberately hidden because if the details come out in the open, it will infuriate the people," he reports.
"The aim of the government is to institute an enquiry, call the officials responsible for the files and ask where the files are and what incriminating evidences are in these files which the police want to hide as of now. Sources say the jackets have been purchased at double the market price and are of inferior quality. The best bulletproof jackets available in the world actually weigh between eight to 10 kgs. But the bulletproof jackets with Mumbai Police weigh much above 10 kgs," he adds.
Police officials also say they wanted bulletproof jackets which are 42 inches in length which is not the case with jackets anywhere else in the world. There are no reputable bulletproof jacket makers who make those kinds of jackets.
Sources say that the entire tender went to a local dealer who provided substandard jacket.
Ahmed adds that no one had imagined a 26/11 like scenario and so officials believed that the corruption in bullteproof jackets would never become public.
They believed that the jackets would only be used during a gunbattle with gangsters. But on 26/11 the jackets failed and that is why questions are being raised.