Within days, two horses Marshal and Guru of the Mounted Police are likely to retire. Doctors have declared the two 16-year-olds unfit for service. Their exit will reduce the number of horses in the unit to 13.
Both Guru and Marshal were recruited in 2007 and have served the police for their tenure. Their doctors have given their opinion that they should retire and further procedure is under way. Once their retirement is finalised, they will be given a warm farewell and sent to an NGO in Gurugram, said an officer who has been supervising the Mounted Police for the last 10 years.
The officer recalled that the number of horses when he had joined the unit was at its sanctioned strength of 95. Over the years, the number depleted and there were hardly any recruitments; the last recruitment he remembered was in 2008 when five horses were inducted.
Proposals for recruitment of horses have been sent to higher authorities over the years but there are concerns over cruelty to the animal, and therefore there has been little movement on the requests. There are no plans of any recruitment as of now, the officer said. For the 15 horses in the unit, there are 99 riders, but many of them have been deployed for law-and-order duty.
The officer remembered the glory days of the Mounted Police when it was used for crime detection in an underdeveloped, largely forested Delhi. Around 15 years ago, Mounted Police was often used for patrolling in the forested area. In Badarpur, which was a wide forested area then, criminals used to smuggle and sell illicit liquor. A human can only walk so much and movement of vehicles was impossible in that area, so horses were used to patrol the forest and catch the suspects, he said, adding that Mounted Police back then was also used as the first shield for crowd control in case of mass agitations.
Now the role of Mounted Police has been reduced to being deployed during VVIP movements; on special occasions like Republic Day parade, Independence Day, Raising Day; for riding training of IPS officers and to participate in sports events.
They are called sometimes for patrolling by police stations in the outskirts of Delhi, the officer said.
The horses share a special bond with their riders and caretakers. Luv retired from the Mounted Police four years ago but its rider, Head Constable Vijay, still visits the horse at the Gurugram stable where the NGO is taking care of it.
He said he last visited Luv about two months ago and the horse immediately recognised him. Mr. Vijay had been Luvs rider for 14 years.
Its your job but you get attached to the animal after spending day and night with it, he said.
The retired horses are missed the most by Ramesh Pal, their caretaker. The 52-year-old has been serving in the unit for over 25 years. He knows what amount of gram, bran and barley needs to be given to the horses, at what time and how, depending on the season. Dara, Ratan, Marshal, Kirtiman, Hans, Prince, Guru, Anmol, Tarzen, Rangeela, Sagar, Rozy, Rajni, Risky, Rupa Mr. Pal calls them by their name and they neigh immediately.