VIP security: Will Chidu succeed in his mission?

VIP security: Will Chidu succeed in his mission?

A former freelance photojournalist surprises many at the INS building in New Delhi when he drives in with two policemen and an ambassador car in tow. None has a clue as to why he is on the protected list.

Security men, automatic rifles, red beacon lights and a long motorcade — the  ubiquitous signs of power, political identity and status. These overt symbols of power and coercion make up the substance of our VIP and VVIP security, with which they seem to cut down on their sense of ‘insecurity.’ Union home ministry has recently removed X and Y category security to 100 individuals, including former chief justice of India Y S Sabharwal. Security of former Union ministers Shivraj Patil, Ram Vilas Paswan and Jagmohan has also been downgraded and that of Natwar Singh completely withdrawn.

Politician and a known mafia don of Uttar Pradesh D P Yadav has been stripped of his VIP status and the security withdrawn. Others whose security has been removed include Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva (to be provided security by the state government), former National Technical Research Organisation head R S Bedi and Delhi police’s special commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

These measures kicked up expectations that the home ministry may cut the excessive flab soon and make VIP security a lean-mean business brooking no nonsense.

The home minister who has done away with his own security is up against Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Lalu Prasad, who are opposing any reduction in their VIP protection. Security of  BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi is also under review. A decision by a panel headed by home secretary G K Pillai, to prune the security of these politicos has been shelved after the protest. Quizzed on the issue, the minister said “no such proposal” has yet come to his ministry.

Much abused word

The home minister is of the view that security should be made available to those facing credible threats or holding Constitutional posts. The ubiquitous  ‘threat perception,’ however, seems to be a much used or abused term for extending or withdrawing VIP security. Much depends on the clout of the person asking for security cover. Soon after Mayawati’s win at the hustings in UP, the UPA government spread a red carpet for the ‘Dalit leader’ and conceded her demand for additional Black Cats, provided to persons requiring Z and Z plus category security.

The BSP leader had also sought SPG cover, exclusive to the prime minister, during her visits around the country. The souring of political ties between the BSP and the Congress has now changed the ‘threat perception’ with the Centre now planning to trim her heavy security cover.

The individuals under X category are given one personal security officer for eight hours, which means sparing three policemen for an individual daily. Under Y-category security, about nine police personnel are engaged in guarding a VIP.  With the pruning of security, the X category now has around 20 individuals and Y category has 75 beneficiaries.

Besides X and Y category, there are ascending categories Z and Z Plus where the so called VIPs are protected round the clock by elite National Security Guards, numbering six to 11 in one shift. Most of these VIPS have bullet proof cars and a pilot car and trailing car in tow. Several of them do not have to go through the security drill at the airport, with some driving straight to the aircraft!

Security cover of about 400 VIPs (including Z and Z plus with the NSG guards) is under the scanner but political heavyweights are not allowing the Centre to decide cases on the basis of ‘merit.’ Home ministry has allowed Z and Z Plus security for BJP’s L K Advani and former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is also covered under the Z Plus category.

In the first spell of the UPA rule in 2004, film star Shah Rukh Khan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar were proposed to be brought under Z Plus category security. Similarly, cricketers Rahul Dravid and Irfan Pathan were also to be listed as VIPs.

Even film actress Aishwarya Rai was considered for the high-scale security by the home ministry. Where does it leave the ordinary citizens who may be facing different kinds of threat, but no one to lobby for them?

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