At the last moment, the then police chief Shailesh Thapa Chhetri asked the Nepal Army to lend 2,066 weapons. The two security agencies signed a memorandum of understanding, according to which the army provided 999 pistols to the police for the elections.
Police personnel working at the Secretariat of the Inspector General of Police at that time remember the army was requested to provide the weapons as they were unable to provide weapons even to the commanders. “Since the army also needed weapons, only 999 weapons were managed.”
According to Central Police Spokesperson Tek Prasad Rai, the police had demanded Rs 939 million to purchase the weapons for the elections. In response, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma, on April 6, allocated Rs 840 million.
“But, a dispute arose before the budget could be released. It was put on hold, hence, we could not purchase weapons,” says DIG Rai, “We are discussing what to do for the upcoming elections now.”
According to the sources of the Election Cell under the Nepal Police Headquarters, preparations are being made to borrow arms and ammunition from the army this year as well. “With the weapons available currently, we cannot assure the necessary security. Since the elections are being held all across Nepal, it is also difficult to manage resources at the same time,” an official says, adding borrowing again is the only way out.
No vehicle: no movement
According to the detailed estimation submitted by Nepal Police, the organisation also lacks the vehicles necessary for the elections. Since the 2013 elections, it has also not purchased vehicles in a large number. The records also state that 2,660 police units in 753 local units need 1,448 vehicles. Nepal Police has informed the Ministry of Home Affairs it needs at least 1,598 motorcycles immediately.
In the recent local elections, the police hired 1,200 vehicles, big and small, from the district and local police units, says Rai.
Nepal Police says it can mobilise only 44 large and 145 small vehicles across the country, but it now needs 110 large vehicles. But, an official of the police headquarters says, “There is no scope of buying the vehicles immediately; it may have to be hired from elsewhere.”
For the 2013 elections, the Government of India gave Nepal Police 443 vehicles in a grant. During the 2007 Constituent Assembly elections too, India had given 805 vehicles of different types. But, India is yet to reply and confirm its help this time.
Lack of communication devices
Nepal Police also says it did not have enough communication devices for the recent local elections.
According to an official, there was a lack of communication devices to reach the places where phone connectivity was not available. Wherever the network was available, the police officers used their mobile phones to stay connected.
But, Nepal Police has not procured an adequate number of communication devices yet.
According to the information received from the Home Ministry, police need additional 7,894 communication devices. According to the estimation prepared for the local elections, Nepal Police needs 15,127 communication sets to operate and give security in normal, sensitive, highly-sensitive, additional polling stations as well as election cells, chief election officer’s office and election officer’s office among others. But, the police organisation only has 7,295 sets. Some of them are not working while some sets were provided by donors.
According to an official of Nepal Police Headquarters, there is a regular lack of communication sets even in the capital. “The old sets get damaged and buying a new one is not a priority. The budget allocated by the government gets used in salaries, uniforms and other work,” he says.
The last time a large number of new communication sets were purchased was in 2013. That year, China gave Hytera communication sets worth about Rs 400 million to the police. The 1,964 state-of-the-art communication sets provided by China were used in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok and Kaski.
Not enough human resources
Nepal Police is allocated to have around 79,000 officers and personnel in total. Apart from the regular office duty, only 62,000 police personnel can be mobilised for election security. Since the number is not enough for security in the upcoming elections, the Home Ministry is preparing to recruit temporary police personnel, informs home ministry spokesperson Fanindra Mani Pokharel.
The Nepal Police Headquarters proposed recruiting 190,000 temporary police for the local elections held in May. But, it was allowed to recruit 100,000.
The Election Commission has expected around 500,000 new voters would be added until the November elections. The increased number is now expected to increase the number of polling stations and polling booths too. So, there is an increase in demand for the number of security personnel needed to guard all polling stations and polling booths.
This year, the Election Commission has said that government employees, security personnel, prisoners and senior citizens can also vote under the proportional representation system. On July 17, the Supreme Court ordered that preparations should be made for government employees, security personnel and prisoners to vote in the state and House of Representatives elections.
Officials say that this can also add difficulty to security arrangements. One of them says, “In the past, the prison police were deployed for the elections, but now, they have to be kept there for security purposes.”
For the first time after 1999, the government conducted the elections across the country in one phase in May this year. Then, voting was cancelled in 44 places. Nepal Police chief IGP Dhiraj Pratap Singh says, “Given that the elections were held in 753 local units at once, it should be taken as normal that the elections were cancelled in 44 places.”
Spokesperson Rai says, “The elections were held in a peaceful manner unlike in the past when the election security was much more challenging because groups including Biplav’s were engaged in violent activities.”
But, now, most of the groups have come into the mainstream, and others cease to exist.
In the next elections, the strategies by Dharmendra Bastola (Kanchan)-led group, split from Biplav’s party, might pose a challenge. If the local elections are taken into reference, the party workers will be the real challenge in the next elections. They created chaos by engaging in general clashes, pelting stones and looting the ballot boxes.
Former AIG Pushkar Karki says he is, nonetheless, hopeful of peace because there is an increase in election culture among citizens, leaders and workers. “Except for the exception, the party leaders and cadres were cordial, which is also a good thing from the security lens. We hope the same for the upcoming provincial and federal elections,” says Karki.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.