Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

India minister Mayawati 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

A plan for a special police force to protect statues of an Indian politician and her mentors has been approved in India's Uttar Pradesh state.

Chief Minister Mayawati proposed the squad because she feared her political opponents might demolish the statues.

Uttar Pradesh's state assembly passed the bill proposing the security force on Thursday.

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.

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).

Special training

State minister Lalji Verma said there was a shortage of security forces to protect the memorials. He said police officers would be given special training.

They will be also given the power to detain people they suspect of threatening security near the statues.

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."

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