With security often seen as a status symbol, the Uttar Pradesh government is spending Rs. 120 crore annually in public money to provide security cover to around 1,500 VIPs of different hues, deploying as many as 2,913 police officials, officials records show.
Inspector general of police (law & order) Badri Prasad Singh admitted that 1,476 VIPs (very important persons) were being given security based on "pre-emptive threat perception".
"Police does a security check of the threat perception to a person who has applied for security from the state and thereafter the home department approves it," Singh told IANS.
Those on VIP security duty include constables, head constables, gunners and sub-inspectors. The government spends over Rs. 120 crore on this security cover every year, said officials.
Officials however privately admit that the cover to "so-called" VIPs is "always and largely a political decision" and there is little police officers and bureaucrats can do about it.
"Security has become somewhat of an obsession and status symbol and people arm-twist their way through the government system," Vikram Singh, a former director general of police, told IANS.
Government sources say more than 10,000 applications requesting security cover are pending before the home department and the officials are at their wits' end handling them.
They point out that the "craze for 'sarkari suraksha' (state security)" is big under the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).
"With the state hard-pressed for police, the situation is sad. Crime rate is soaring and people are looking for better security mechanism," said a police officer.
Security cover taken away from civil police force impeded not only routine policing but also burnt a hole into the state's coffers, the officer said.
The highest number of VIPs are in state capital Lucknow (232) followed by Allahabad (109), Noida (60), Kanpur, Etawah and Mainpuri.
These numbers are other than special protectees such as central government ministers, former chief ministers and political leaders.
Former Uttar Pradesh police chief KL Gupta said that according to international norms set by the United Nations, police ratio per 100,000 population was 200 while in the state, it was merely 132.
"In such circumstances, if police is split between VIPs and commoners, maintaining law and order and checking crimes are just not possible," Gupta told IANS.
Besides SP MPs and legislators, security is being provided to many party workers and office-bearers, even as party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has aired his displeasure at the "mad run for VIP culture" and reprimanded workers for "hankering for beacon lights, sirens, party flags and security cover".