Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

India minister Mayawati seeks police squad for statues

A crane being used to install a new statue of Ms Mayawati in Lucknow
Mayawati is accused of self-glorification by her critics

An Indian politician is calling for a police force to be created to protect statues she has erected of herself and her mentors.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Mayawati, says her political opponents want to demolish the statues.

A bill proposing the force has been introduced in the state assembly, to be debated at a later date.

Ms Mayawati has been criticised for spending $1bn (£0.6bn) on monuments of herself and other low-caste leaders.

She remains popular among India's 160 million low-caste Dalits, formerly known as "untouchables" - but critics accuse her of self-glorification and wasting public money in what is one of India's poorest states.

Bulldozers should be put to good use in these memorials
Uttar Pradesh state opposition leader Mulayam Singh Yadav

India's Supreme Court has ordered the state government to halt further building work on the statues until it decides whether the expense can be justified.

Last year, the Uttar Pradesh state opposition leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, said: "Bulldozers should be put to good use in these memorials."

According to the bill tabled in the state assembly, the squad would be named the Special State Security Force.

If passed, the bill will give officers powers to detain people they suspect of threatening security near the statues.

The initial cost of raising the force is estimated to be 540m rupees ($11.6m; £7.1m). Yearly maintenance would cost 140m rupees ($3m; £1.8m).

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