VIPs to Pay for Own Security?
Maxwell Pereira

maxpk@vsnl.com

Union home ministry’s move to re-look at the VIP security system was in the news recently. Among the proposals being considered is one to make VIPs pay for their own security, fully or partially. It is about time this was done, is the feeling voiced across the board.

Providing state security to “very important persons” whose security is a matter of national or state concern is an accepted state function. Remember what the nation faced when a member of her own security outfit killed one of our prime ministers. Twenty odd years later we are yet to come out of the aftermath and trauma of this event. And, can we ever forget the terrorist attack on our Parliament in Dec 2001… ?

It is true that a representative of the people whether he/she is a member of Parliament/ assembly, chief minister or is holding any other public office, often compromises his/her personal safety in order to carry out the business of government. There is no doubt that the lives of public personalities – especially the likes of Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani, the Gandhi offspring Priyanka and Rahul, and/or present or former prime ministers and their near and dear ones, are often at grave risk. Many figure on hit lists of terrorists; others have received verbal/written threats from fringe elements, even from cranks.

The fact that a public functionary’s job involves functions/ expressions and taking decisions in the public interest that cannot possibly please both ends of the spectrum is reason enough to render him/her potentially vulnerable – and so the need to put in place all possible security measures to safeguard against violent attacks. It is the duty of the state to provide such security, as its very functioning depends on the well-being and safety of its administrators.

With the advent of terrorism, it is also true that even the ordinary citizen has become security conscious. This has led to the realisation that society’s primary security provider – the police, are really not in a position to give protection to all people, individually, at all times. While the police continue to be responsible and accountable for the individual as part of the society he is expected to protect and safeguard, the fine distinction between the concept of “security for individuals per se” vis a vis the overall umbrella of “collective security” for which the police are responsible, is emerging.

The biggest chunk of the ‘endangered lot’ is the lot of politicians who have to be provided security cover not just when in power but also after they have demitted office. Often the threat is on account of the politician's own misdeeds (wanton or otherwise…) or his criminal record. Security is provided on the basis of threat perception supposedly assessed by intelligence agencies – but this, the public feels, is often doctored to provide the VIP higher security than he actually needs. There is also that category for whom toting gun-wielding commandos and a VIP red light on the hood of his armoured car is a status symbol – it adds to his aura, again depending on what kind of proximity he enjoys with the powers that be to get his way.

When the list of VIPs extends to every sundry politician to bureaucrat, their kith and kin and socialites and activists, the business of “keeping important people safe” from an ever-growing list of security-seekers is a drain on the national exchequer. If a majority of this lot were made to pay from their pocket that would make a more realistic assessment of the threat.

Isn’t the ordinary citizen today not equally vulnerable? So why should the state's resources be concentrated on protecting only a few worthies at his expense? There was a time when the list of “protected persons’ to whom Delhi Police provided security exceeded 700. Even though this list today stands clipped to 350 VIPs, about 7,200 police personnel from DP’s security unit are deployed to protect them. Not many know that more are deputed from the armed battalions too to meet the never-ending orders of the Home Ministry to provide security cover to persons outside this list too.

Most of the 350 worthies provided security are classified for the type of security to be provided – from the low grade ‘X’ to ‘Y’ class to the Z, Z+ And Z++ category depending on the threat perception. Against this, out of Delhi Police’s overall strength of 60,000 personnel, not more than 20000 are deployed in police stations to protect and police 1.5 crore people in Delhi’s 9 districts.

Police personnel from central para-military forces – around 2000 in number, are also deputed to Delhi Police to guard VIP residences, in addition to the security personnel deployed. The Special Protection Group that primarily guards the Prime Minister, former PMs and their family members, has over the years grown from 800 in 1985 to 3,000, but statedly is insufficient to meet security demands. In addition, the ITBP, CRPF are also hard-pressed because of VIP duty. Crores of taxpayers' money goes into the security paraphernalia which guards these VIPs, most of whom it is felt can afford to pay for their security.

Only the highest offices in the country and those who've come under threat in the discharge of their official duties need to be given state security realistically. It is learnt the Centre has proposed to create an exclusive force for VIP security. This may take care of security for various individuals whose lives are under threat may be able to take a huge load off other government security agencies and thereby help concentrate on police’s main function of preventing and detecting crime. It would be necessary to train the proposed outfit also to deal with problems concerning VIP security – including how to carry out their duties with minimum disturbance or inconvenience to the public, especially during VIP movements.

950 words
20.06.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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