With Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh just around the corner, the police have discovered that individuals in the state have over four times more firearms than those allotted to police personnel.
According to official sources in the police department, 10.7 lakh commoners possess licensed firearms while only 2.3 lakh police personnel are equipped with the same.
Police sources said that according to rough estimates, more than 30 lakh people posses unlicensed and country-made firearms.
The issue gains significance in view of the upcoming Assembly elections and the possibility of poll-related violence. According to the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), in the 2012 Assembly polls, 340 candidates in the fray had serious criminal cases against them. These included murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery and extortion. The number is expected to be higher this time since a number of new generation criminals are clamouring for tickets.
According to the national data base of arms licenses, there are over 26 lakh gun license holders in the country. Punjab, with 4.50 lakh individuals holding licensed firearms, is a distant second and Madhya Pradesh is at third spot with 2.70 lakh gun licenses.
Police sources said that according to a recent survey conducted to identify gun license holders across the state, it was found that licenses had been issued to more than 20,000 people in 14 districts of the state, with a majority of them being in western UP and central UP.
A sizeable number of licenses were issued after the 2013 communal riots Muzaffarnagar, which killed at least 62 people.
The survey revealed that in Lucknow, one in 81 people has a gun license, while in Kanpur, one out of 168 individuals has one, and in Etah and Mainpuri, one in 58 and 77 persons, respectively, flaunt guns.
Former DGP Sri Ram Arun said that guns had emerged as a status symbol in the rural areas and people were known to even sell their land to buy a firearm.
A senior police official admitted that in most cases, licenses had been issued without taking threat perception into consideration.
DGP Javeed Ahmad, however, said, “We have been extra cautious while dealing with applicants for the past year. Those seeking licences as family heir are the only ones who have been entertained. The numbers of licence holders has come down from 11.23 lakh in 2013 to 10.76 lakh at present.”