The Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force has received a major push in the state home department's roadmap for the next 100 days under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is in his second term.
From weapon upgradation to bringing snipers onboard, the STF is preparing for contingencies involving law and order issues. The special unit is set to witness an infrastructure boost in the coming days as it expands across the state. The government believes this would instill a sense of security among the masses.
Formed with an objective to crack down on dreaded gangs and organised crime, the operations of the unit has landed it in several controversies over the years.
With impetus on alleged encounters in the Yogi Adityanath regime, the STF has led from the front in bumping off alleged criminals. Several of these alleged 'extrajudicial killings', including the infamous Vikas Dubey encounter, came under scrutiny which barely yielded any adverse findings against the STF.
From an Abandoned House to Sprawling Offices: Rise of STF
The UP STF was set up in 1998 in Lucknow. Its first office was an abandoned four-room house of a deceased retired deputy superintendent of police in the city's Mahanagar area.
"We all used to sit in the same room. Initially, we used our personal vehicles for work. We didn't even have a computer. Later, an old computer from the computer centre was allotted to us," Rajesh Pandey, retired IPS and founding member of the STF, said.
Now, STF boasts of state-of-the-art infrastructure and advanced tech. Apart from a multi-storey head office in Vibhuti Khand in Lucknow, STF has its own offices for its field unit in Meerut and Varanasi. The 100-day action plan now envisages the construction of offices in Agra, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, and Bareilly and land allocation for a transit hostel in Noida.
There are nine field units of STF in UP and the unit is expanding further. A new STF unit is all set to come up in the very sensitive Ayodhya. The 100-day action plan has allocated Rs 6.69 crore for setting up of the unit in the temple town.
From a modest house in Lucknow to footprints across the state, STF has come a long way in the last two decades. When it was formed, kidnapping, organised crime, and dacoity were the major challenges for the unit. Over time, as technology and modus operandi evolved, there has been a shift in STF's focus and specialisation.
"STF's annual recovery of narcotics is 15-20 tonne which is five times more than the combined recovery by other agencies in the state. Similarly, we work on cross-border crime which again needs specialisation. Then there are specialised gangs that are into competitive exam paper leaks," a senior officer in the STF said.
STF To Bring Snipers in the Team
UP STF will soon be the first arm of the UP police to bring snipers on board. There is a separate allocation for ammunition purchase for sniper rifles. Explaining the rationale behind bringing snipers into the team, a senior STF cop on the condition of anonymity, claimed this is being done to be prepared for any contingency situation.
The 100-day action plan also talks about the replacement of old weapons like SLR, Insas rifle, and AK-47s with lighter weapons of smaller caliber and more accuracy.
"We have to shift from heavy rifles to lighter weapons which have more accuracy. For that, weapons need to have a certain attachment where one can fire in total darkness, from behind a glass or under any other exigent circumstances. Every cop who is being equipped with these weapons has to be trained accordingly," a senior STF officer said.