RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- SECURITY: STATUS SYMBOL OR PROTECTION?
BJP working president JP Nadda on told the Rajya Sabha that there was no political angle in the withdrawal of the Special Protection Group cover to the Gandhis. Speaking in Rajya Sabha amid Congress protests in Parliament against the government’s move, Nadda said the decision on the security cover was taken by the Home Ministry and not by politicians. Earlier, defending the government’s decision to downgrade the security cover, senior BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said the decision has been taken by the Home Ministry, and moreover, the threat perception to the Gandhis has disappeared with the end of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The Congress demanded in Rajya Sabha restoration of the SPG cover to the Gandhi family and former prime minister Manmohan Singh by “rising above partisan politics”. The central government earlier this month replaced the Special Protection Group security cover given to Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka Gandhi and former Prime Minister Singh with the ‘Z-plus’ security of the Central Reserve Police Force.
- In March 1985, following the recommendations of a committee set up by the Home Ministry, a special unit was created for this purpose under the Cabinet Secretariat. This unit, initially called the Special Protection Unit, was renamed as Special Protection Group in April 1985.
- Subsequently, the Parliament passed The Special Protection Group (SPG) Act, which was notified in June 1988 “to provide for the constitution and regulation of an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and for matters connected therewith”.
- The SPG Act defined “proximate security” as “protection provided from close quarters, during journey by road, rail, aircraft, watercraft or on foot or any other means of transport” and to “include the places of functions, engagements, residence or halt”.
- Coverage: SPG protection was extended, apart from the Prime Minister, to “former Prime Ministers of India and members of their immediate families” through an amendment in the Act in the aftermath of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- It was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah, on November 25, 2019. The Bill amends the Special Protections Group Act, 1988. The Act provides for the constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG) to provide security to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers, and their immediate family members.
- Under the Act, the SPG provides security to the Prime Minister and his immediate family members. It also provides security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for a period of one year from the date on which they cease to hold the office. Beyond this period, the SPG security is provided based on the level of threat as decided by the central government. The threat must: (i) emanate from a military or terrorist organisation, and (ii) be of a grave and continuing nature.
- The Bill amends this provision to state that the SPG will provide security to the Prime Minister, and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. It will also provide security to any former Prime Ministers, and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him. This security will be provided for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister.
- The Act provides that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members, unless the level of threat faced by the immediate family member warrants such security. The Bill removes this condition to state that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members.
Categories of security:
Besides the SPG, VIPs in India are protected by other security forces as well. The levels of security cover are determined by the threat perception around the individual.
- The highest level of security cover is the Z-plus category, followed by Z, Y, and X categories.
- The higher the level of cover, the larger the number of personnel protecting the individual.
- Roughly 24-36 personnel with automatic weapons are deployed for Z-plus category protectees and 16-20 personnel guard Z-category protectees.
- The elite ‘Black Cat’ commandos of the NSG are deployed to protect VIPs for whom the threat perception is the highest.
How is the threat assessment made?
- Under the union home secretary this assessment is made with inputs from all top to down agencies.
- The Home Ministry takes the decision based on inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, Delhi commissioner and other police departments.
- The assessment is clear like an algorithm.
- They largely give a measure of threat to life or injury to a person from terrorists or any other group, based on information from their sources.
- The threats recorded from various sources such as local intelligence and many other similar sources are consolidated by the Union Home Secretary.
- Hence the inputs are detailed, incorporated, assessed and the decision is made.
- Simply allotment of SPG cover causes a huge drain on the resources of the state.
- The allotment is not realistic.
- The SPG security should be provided on the need and threat basis.
- It should be not for social status.
- SPG is a distinctive and special force and should deviate from that.
- They should come back to their original function and limit their protection.
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