Finding it difficult to get rid of 303 rifles, the Himachal Police have now decided to modify the brutally-effective firearms that have remained synonym with the state police for more than a century.
Though old guns are the being replaced with modern weaponry, police still have more than 5,000, 303 rifles in its armory. These rifles, known for their aim and sturdiness, will be the modified to fire rubber bullets to disperse crowds at the time of rioting.
“We have drawn up a proposal to modify 303 rifles to fire rubber bullets,” director general of police (DGP) Sanjay Kumar told Hindustan Times.
“We thought instead of dumping these guns, these may be modified for some other purpose,” said Kumar while adding that the modified 303 rifles will be provided to the state police's riot control teams.
Police personnel feel that 303 rifles, which are not self-loading arms, weigh heavy, look monstrous and they hinder movement during critical manoeuvres.
Meanwhile, there is also a proposal to provide 303 rifles for training to special police officers (SPOs) who are deployed in villages along the Chamba border with Jammu and Kashmir.
The 303 Enfield rifles are now being replaced by the indigenously-manufactured INSAS rifles that are much lighter than these first World War-era guns. INSAS rifles were introduced in the army in 1994 but these too are being gradually phased out to be replaced with better assault rifles being manufactured in England and Israel.
The state police have also proposed to purchase modern guns to equip the cops. “More guns of the AK series will be purchased by the police under its modernisation programme,” said the DGP.
He said that lately Israeli MP guns have also been added to the police armory. The Israeli made MP5 guns are considered to be effective for close combat. Cops on the VVIP duty are being equipped with MP5 guns. There is a proposal to purchase more MP 5 guns which are fitted with night vision devices.
The state police had started its modernisation drive in 2002 but it has been progressing on snail's pace, owing to the paucity of funds for purchasing new weaponry.
“The state has been constantly urging the union ministry of home affairs to be more liberal with its funding so that police modernisation could be given impetus,” said additional director general of police (armed police and training) AP Siddiqui.