Guns and status: VIP security cover is a system that’s lost its moorings from professional threat assessment

Context: Singer and Punjab Congress politician Sidhu Moose Wala was murdered a day after his security cover was reduced. It has raised questions over the system of providing security to the VIPs.

As per data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development, more than 66,000 police personnel were providing protection to more than 19,000 ministers, MPs, MLAs, judges, bureaucrats, and others in 2019, in the Centre and states.

What is the mechanism to decide on the security cover for VIPs?

No real assessment of threat is done while providing or reducing or withdrawing the security cover.

Security covers are almost dependent upon the political favors by the people in power.

What are the implications of the absence of a system?

First, it has given birth to the VIP security culture, which is seen as a status symbol. This system is almost absent in other democracies.

Second, it has resulted in an irrational system of security cover. Bengal (~3000), Punjab (~2500) and Bihar top the list in the number of people under security cover, even though these states are not suffering from any entrenched insurgencies or violent movements. Whereas, Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh had only 315 people under security cover.

Third, India has 155.78 police personnel per lakh population, against the UN recommended standard of 222 cops per lakh. The bulk of this ‘protection force’ is drawn from state police ranks. Thus, it results in overworked police, which has its own implications.

Fourth, furthermore, the distribution of the police force is not even. It is leaving a major part of non-urban India being seriously under-policed.

Undoubtedly, protection is essential for a number of public figures. However, there is a lack of initiative to review this system, among people in power.

Source: This post is created based on the article “Guns and status: VIP security cover is a system that’s lost its moorings from professional threat assessment” published in The Times of India on 1st June 2022.

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