Secure our streets

A Supreme Court order calling for downsizing VIP security will hopefully contribute to correcting the excessive and unnecessary deployment of security personnel to protect politicians, officials, judges.

The court has pointed out that these personnel could be put to better use by deploying them on the streets to secure ordinary people, especially women. Official figures provide startling insights into how the government has been prioritising VIP security over that of the public. Consider this. While each VIP has three policemen to protect him, just one policeman is deployed for 761 ordinary people.

VIPs in Delhi are a particularly pampered lot. They have at least a dozen policemen guarding them. It is not our argument that securing VIPs is not important. It is, particularly in the context of multiple insurgencies wreaking havoc in the country and the serious threat posed by terrorists seeking the limelight through assassination of prominent personalities. However, in recent decades, the number of security personnel assigned to VIP duty has grown exponentially, far in excess of the requirement. Many of these cops end up doing the VIP’s personal work. This is a gross wastage of personnel. This wastage is all the more painful in a country that has a severe shortage of police personnel.

Being followed around by a posse of gun-wielding cops and riding in a car with a lal-bathi (red light) and siren are status symbols that our VIPs flash diligently. Hence there is a competition among them for being assigned more police personnel. Nothing feeds their egos more, it seems, than the size of the security convoy that accompanies them. Meanwhile, the daily life of ordinary women and men has become extremely vulnerable to violent crime. The streets have become unsafe as have our schools, shops and even our homes.

The Supreme Court has echoed the feelings of many people in this country. There is an urgent need to prioritise security in favour of the public. The apex court order asking states to file affidavits on deployment of policemen for VIP security is a welcome starting point that should nudge the government to revise the nature of security deployment. Does the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, for instance, need a thousand policemen? Will these personnel not be of greater use on our streets regulating traffic and preventing crime?

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