As the post-26/11 debate on whether politicians need more security than the public rages on, facts hidden in government figures show how India can be safer if only our VIPs do not turn security into a status symbol.
On paper, threat assessments dictate security cover and the extent of protection. Politics often replaces threat assessments in practice. More than 45,000 policemen protect the pool of VIPs in India that grew at 20 per cent â" 12 times faster than the annual population growth rate â" between 2004 and 2005. This means more security personnel guard 13,319 VIPs than the number of policemen in any Indian city â" Delhi and Mumbai included. This is more than the police strength of all states bar the nine largest.
An estimated Rs 825 crore of taxpayers' money is spent annually on the salary of the security staff alone, assuming â" conservatively â"that all on duty are constables earning Rs 15,000 each.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) headquartered in Delhi had compiled the figures more than a year ago.
Police officers said the actual number of policemen protecting the VIPs â" ministers, members of Parliament, state legislators, judges and bureaucrats among others â" would be at least twice this figure. In Delhi, more than 14,000 personnel are on VIP duties. The report, Data on Police Organisations in India, only counted about 4,900 security personnel deployed for more than six months as on January 1, 2006.
"A total of 11,012 VIPs were provided police protection for more than six months during the year 2004â¦ It shows an increase of 20.9 per cent over the previous year," the report said.
"The increase in the VIP protection deployment has strained the limited manpower resources of State Police," the report said, suggesting that the grounds for providing security were skewed.
On paper, threat assessments dictate security cover and the extent of protection. Politics often replaces threat assessments in practice.
Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh's is the latest example. His threat perception suddenly increased this year to the highest level, Z-Plus, around the same time that the UPA government's life was hanging in balance after the Left pullout.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati too had got herself home ministry clearance for her car to drive up to the aircraft at the Delhi airport after she extended support to the government more than a year ago. She withdrew support this year, but the privileges continue.
BPR&D said the deployment of police for VIP protection should be rationalised by reviewing it against need-based assessment. According to figures in its report, West Bengal has the most number of VIPs -- 1,999. Assam comes next with 1,610 and Uttar Pradesh, a close third at 1,506. Maharashtra, on the other hand, had reported about 122 VIPs.
Terror-torn Jammu and Kashmir, however, has only 170 VIPs.
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