VIPs on the move are a big headache

new delhi: vips on the move are taking a heavy toll of traffic in delhi. every time a vip’s convoy takes over the road, everything stops and once the convoy sweeps past, all hell breaks loose. a five-minute stop during peak hours on the ring road could mean a pile-up of about 3,000 vehicles. saurabh lal, an employee with the marketing department of a leading bank, had a taste of it near olaf palme marg and on his way from dhaula kuan to moti bagh. ‘‘this route sees a maximum vip movement, more so with the domestic airport nearby. we had to wait for 45 minutes and i was right behind the traffic signal,’’ lal said. of course, he hadn’t a clue which vip was zooming past. debabrata sahoo, a pr consultant, had a curious experience at the iit flyover. ‘‘it was office time when traffic was stopped for a vip movement,’’ he said. ‘‘the entire traffic on the road on which the vip carcade was moving was cleared and traffic lights switched off. now, once the vip had passed by, the traffic lights came on and guess what? the same road got the green signal again. the entire process left by late by about half an hour,’’ he said. samar choudhury faced the wrath of the uniform when he rushed past the security even after traffic was stopped on his way from cantonment area. ‘‘i was rushing to office and didn’t realise i had stepped into the pm’s path, who was scheduled to cross the area. i would have been jailed if i didn’t come from an army background,’’ he said. ‘‘it took about 20 minutes for me to convince the police that i was innocent.’’ vinnie menon had just stepped out of her uncle’s house in kidwai nagar to look for a taxi when she was stopped in her tracks by security men. ‘‘the pm is here, he may come out anytime, i was told,’’ recollects menon. ‘‘they wouldn’t let me move! i couldn’t even call a taxi and they expected me to wait as long as the pm didn’t step out, and no one had a clue when he would.’’ samyukta singh, a programme assistant with a research group, was stunned when she was halted by some rude security men at dhaula kuan and asked to turn and look away from the road. reason? vip movement. ‘‘i found it demeaning and got into a verbal duel when a security man pointed the butt of his gun at me,’’ recalls singh. ‘‘it was only after i identified myself as a fauji’s daughter that he changed tack,’’ she said. the capital has an exceptional vip presence and we feel it on and off on the roads. and there’s little hope that we’ll see it go as the number of vips grow and so do their security cover, proportional to their ‘‘threat perception’’. everyday, the district, security wings and the traffic police have to go through a drill for what is referred to as ‘‘vip movement’’. according to police sources, the president, prime minister, home minister, sonia gandhi, foreign dignitaries, former pms and anyone else the investigation bureau may suspect to be a target is entitled to special treatment. in case of the pm, former pms and their families, the special protection group also comes in. ‘‘sometimes, entire movement has to be planned and executed in 45 minutes to one hour’s notice,’’ said a police source. ‘‘each category of vip has a list of security measures to be taken during movement. once the police is informed of the movement, directions are issued over the wireless, each of which is recorded. personnel are called in and asked to take position immediately, one-third of them armed and two-thirds with sticks. the entire area is scanned and sniffer dogs used as and when required. then, traffic movement has to be blocked,’’ the source said. the traffic police, however, claim they ensure least amount of inconvenience to commuters. ‘‘stoppage is never for more than two minutes,’’ joint commissioner of police, traffic, maxwell pereira said. ‘‘it takes more time to unravel a traffic haul-up. for instance, a one-minute stoppage can take five minutes to unravel, and if you are the last one in the pile-up, it could take you 10 minutes to come up,’’ he said. pereira said traffic is halted only when it is ‘‘mandatory’’ and if prevailing circumstances demand so. ‘‘we have already lost a pm. we can’t take a chance,’’ he said. ‘‘we have to move at short notice, but it is better this way for us and the security. the less known the exact movements are, the better,’’ pereira said.

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