Come Republic Day, it will be curtains for the British-era .303 rifles in Uttar Pradesh where it has been in use for decades by the police.

Before the weapons fade into the pages of history, some of these will be used for training purposes, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi told PTI on Friday.

“.303 rifles are already on their way out. They will be used only for training purposes and not in actual use,” Awasthi said.

With a view to equip the force with modern weapons, the Uttar Pradesh government is already in the process of providing 63,000 INSAS and 23,000 SLR rifles to the state police.

The UP Police will finally be equipped with modern weapons as the .303 rifles are being gradually replaced by INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) and SLR (Self-Loading Rifles), Awasthi said.

He said the state police force was being modernised to ensure peace and effective control on law and order, besides ensuring women’s safety and a sense of security among the common people.

The arrangements for additional weapons have been made keeping in mind future recruitment drives, a senior official said.

Looking back at the efficiency of the Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle, retired IPS officer IC Dwivedi told PTI from Bangalore, “It was a reliable and accurate weapon and could fire uninterrupted. The maintenance aspect was low.”

“We rarely had to send it for repair,” recalled Dwivedi, who retired in 1990 as DG (Vigilance) in UP government.

A 1972-batch IPS officer SR Darapuri, who retired in as Inspector General-cum-Principal of Armed Training Centre, Sitapur (UP), told PTI, “In our time, mostly .303 rifles were used. Since the weapons were heavy, handling these was cumbersome as compared to the SLRs. I used them last time during practice firing at Armed Training Centre, Sitapur.”

ADG (Meerut) Prashant Kumar, when contacted, said, “The latest weaponry used by police is better. The .303 was good as per the requirements of that time.”

Kumar said that he had used the .303 rifle during his days as Superintendent of Police in the early 2000s.

In July 2017, it was noted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that nearly 48 per cent of the Uttar Pradesh police personnel were still using the .303 rifles, declared “obsolete” nearly 20 years ago.

“The .303 bore rifles were declared obsolete more than 20 years ago in February 1995 but about 48 per cent of the police force in the state is still using it,” the CAG had pointed out in its report for the year ending on March 31, 2016.

The report titled Performance Audit of Modernisation and Strengthening of Police Forces, tabled in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly stated, “As per the 1995 instructions of the MHA, the .303 rifles became obsolete by 1995 and required replacement by modern weapons.”

The government auditor said out of 1.22 lakh rifles available with the UP police as on March 2016, as many as 58,853 rifles were of .303 category.

“The UP government had accepted it (in February 2017) and stated that .303 rifles are being replaced by INSAS rifles and this process will be completed in five years,” the CAG report had said.

The CAG said the reply was, however, “not tenable,” because .303 rifles had been declared obsolete more than 20 years ago, while about 48 per cent of the force was still using it.

Further, out of the 15 test-checked districts, in 14 districts, as many as 16,700 .303 bore rifles were being used by the UP police.

The .303 was the British Army’s standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957.