Millennium Post

Lording it out at public expense

The Supreme Court’s direction by the Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Gokhale to declare VVIP and VIP security assets comes as a welcome development in the face of rampant and indiscriminate use of security provisions, a wide-scale practice that has been straining the government exchequer for too long. In India, the lal batti (red light of VIP car beacons) phenomenon has become an endemic problem of our political culture, as rightly observed by the judges. Exaggerating dangers to life and deploying security personnel substantially over and beyond the actual requirement (if any) have permeated into all sections of our political classes, who continue with this unscrupulous indulgence even as ordinary citizens, especially women, face the debilitating effects of a diminished police force available for public duty. Official estimates put the figure of people receiving VVIP security cover at 2,300, constituting mostly the politicos, while some reports suggest that the number of people receiving VIP cover stands at an astounding 13,000. In 2009, the Delhi High Court, after hearing a PIL on law and order grievances of the ordinary citizen, had observed that the fact that over 9,000 police personnel were deployed  round-the-clock to ensure the safety of just about 400 people, amounted to a ‘mockery of threat perception’ and clearly constituted a massive abuse of public funds and police facilities.

The alphabetically stratified security system, with slabs like X, Y, Z and Z-plus categories (indicating an exponentially increasing level of security provision, with bullet-proof cars, attendant vehicles carrying special guards and commandos) lends to the unwarranted perception th   at security provisions are status symbols and testimonies to the cardinal value of the person concerned. Politicians clamour to upgrade their own covers and downgrade their rivals’ in a battle of pseudo-prestige and fabricated honour, as the government needlessly draws from the limited pool of the central paramilitary forces such as the CRPF, IBTB, CISF and even the commandos of the Anti-Terror Squad, or the super-speciality and high-cost National Security Guards (NSG) who are reserved for the Prime Minister’s safety and to handle extraordinary situations (like they were used to take down the terrorists during the Mumbai attack). In a country, where per capita income is under Rs 6,000 per month with the poorer states registering as low as Rs 1,500, spending hundreds of crores on ensuring VVIP security amounts to a travesty of public welfare. As these ‘public protectees’ strut around with a personal battalion of armed men, uniformed or un-uniformed, as MPs, MLAs, former ministers, and a slew of questionable figures such as student leaders and senior party cadres, henchmen with political connections, boast of the XYZ of security protocols, the rare example of P Chidambaram, who refused to have heightened security facilities for himself, stands out in this excruciating treacle of security one-upmanship.
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