The already shabby image of Uttar Pradesh police has taken another hammering after the force sent out seven teams to trace as many buffaloes belonging to urban development minister Azam Khan that had gone missing over the weekend.
The force which had once faced the ignominy of seeing an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent (DSP) dusting the sandals of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, the embarrassment has only been aggravated by the highly-publicised buffalo mission.
For two days, the Rampur police was on its toes to trace the seven buffaloes of Khan that were stolen from his farmhouse.
Several serious crime cases related to the ‘aam aadmi’ were put on the backburner as the cops searched slaughterhouses, vehicles passing through highways and carried out combing operation in the villages.
The cops did manage to recover the buffaloes within 24 hours yet three police personnel had to face the wrath of the temperamental minister for their failure to protect the animals from thieves. The cops have been sent to police lines as "punishment".
But Shamshi Khan, a resident of the Ganj area in same Rampur, has been running from pillar to post in the police department after dacoits looted 40 lakhs looted from his house last year.
A distraught Khan said that after dacoits looted the money from his house in November, 2013 he had lodged an FIR promptly.
"But the police have neither arrested the culprits nor managed to recover the looted amount."
The Samajwadi Party (SP) government, facing charges of highhandedness and insensitivity towards the people, have now been accused of allowing the police to work as the "personal force" of Khan.
But Khan and Mayawati are not the only politicians who are accused of misusing the police force as their personal staff – security guards attached to politicians are allegedly used to run personal errands regularly.
A home department officer said that 6,000 police personnel are deployed as armed guards of politicians belonging to the ruling SP, Congress, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and even smaller parties like Apna Dal, Peace Party and Qaumi Ekta Dal.
The state government spends Rs 22 crore per year on the salary and allowances of these constables.
Contacted by HT, some of these security personnel attached to ministers and MLAs admitted that they are asked to do odd jobs like accompanying family-members for marketing and other domestic work.
Take the case of DS Chauhan who earlier worked as an instructor in the police department, imparting training in use of firearms like revolvers and carbines to recruits at various training centres.
A year ago, Chauhan was appointed as a security guard of a Samajwadi Party MLA and today he is busy shopping for vegetables and ferrying LPG gas cylinders.
"I am forced to do domestic work at the MLA’s residence. Neither am I called for training, neither I have the time for training. My service revolver is rusting," Chauhan rued.
But the police force has seen worse.
In 2011, three police personnel were handed life terms for the abduction and murder of a PWD Manoj Gupta in 2008. The trio -- SHO Hoshiyar Singh and constables Pal Singh and Gajraj Singh – were found guilty of assisting former BSP MLA from Auraiya Shekhar Tiwari in kidnapping Gupta.
The MLAs and his associates tortured Gupta leading to his death. His body was dumped near the Dibiyapur police station. In January 2012, police allegedly threatened a rape survivor of dire consequences when she registered a complaint against BSP MLA Purushottam Naresh Tiwari.
In January, assistant regional transport officer Bhagwan Das posted in Banda district sent a report to the state government pointing out that politicians belonging to SP, BSP and Congress are involved in illegal mining and are given protection by the local police force.
Clearly on the backfoot, director general of police (DGP) Rizwan Ahmad said that the force has been told to refurbish their image and work as a force of the common people.
According to the UP police’s official website, the force has a strength of 2 lakh personnel and claimed to be the largest "single police force not only in the country but of the entire world".