A year after the Mumbai terror attacks in which its chief Hemant Karkare was killed, the Anti Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra police is woefully short of staff even against its sanctioned level.
The crack force, created to counter terror of different hues, at present has only 300 personnel, notwithstanding the strictures from the Bombay High Court this year of neglect by the government.
The cumulative strength of constables and head-constables of the ATS stands at 240 against the sanctioned strength of 730, according to figures accessed by PTI.
The position relating to middle-level officers also seems no better. There is only one superintendent of police against four sanctioned, three assistant commissioners of police against nine and a mere 20 inspectors against 50.
The number of sub-inspectors, the cutting edge of the force in as much as they are the first to investigate a case, is only 30 against a sanctioned strength of 155.
Along with Karkare, encounter specialist of the force, Inspector Vijay Salaskar, was gunned down in front of the Cama hospital on the night of November 26 by Lashkar-e-Tayiba trained terrorists from Pakistan.
ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi, an additional director general of police in rank, declined to discuss the issue of numbers on the ground that it related to the force's operations. DGP A N Roy was also not available.
The ATS was formed by the state government in 2004 to counter the threat of terrorism and was entrusted with the collection of information on anti-national elements.
It was also delegated to be the nodal agency for exchange of intelligence with Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, apart from tracking and neutralising terror modules.
In the last one year, the ATS found a slow depletion in its force. The reason, cited by senior government officials on condition of anonymity, is that the ATS has not been treated the way the Crime Branch of the police has been.
It has received step-motherly treatment, they feel. The men of the force believe that even the Mumbai terror attacks should have been investigated by the ATS but it was given to the Crime Branch.
Sources said the budget, used for generating intelligence and giving rewards to the 'sources' of the ATS, had been reduced to 25 per cent of what it used to be three years ago. A division bench of the Bombay High Court in June this year had pulled up the state government over the ATS remaining headless since the killing of Karkare.