Tribune News Service
Patiala, February 14
In a state with a fascination for weapons, the men in khaki have additional work: Other than controlling the law and order situation, the Punjab Police also face the tedious task of pressing villagers to deposit their firearms at police stations and private gun houses for the peaceful conduct of the MC elections. In all, 28.5 lakh voters will be eligible to vote in 2,062 wards.
Till date, a little over 30 per cent of the licensed weapons have been deposited. Now, orders have been issued in many districts by District Magistrates to ban carrying of firearms on the polling day.
The police have a tedious task to get more than 2.5 lakh licensed firearms deposited at police stations and authorised arms dealers in their respective area. Majority of the villagers are not ready to deposit their firearms.
Due to bitter rivalry in villages over political factionalism, there are ample chances of the elections turning bloody, sources say. The state government, therefore, does not want to take any chance. Even during the Vidhan Sabha elections, the state Election Commission had ordered that firearms in all districts be deposited with the police station concerned.
The policemen have been asked to visit households of those holding firearm licences and ask them to deposit weapons at the earliest. There are 28,102 licensed weapons in Ludhiana district, 35,152 in Bathinda and 35,794 in Gurdaspur. While Sangrur has over 15,000 weapons, the number in case of Patiala is around 25,000.
A senior police officer said it would impossible to get all weapons deposited with the authorities as villagers feared clashes and attacks. “We are getting daily action-taken report from the field officers, but the reality is that 40 per cent of the weapons are still out in the open,” he said.
Clashes in some parts of the state in the run-up to the civic body elections have created a fear psychosis among villagers and they are reluctant to part with their weapons. “Every party has factionalism. It is dangerous,” said a political leader.
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