How the security arrangements for Narendra Modi’s visit to the Punjab were nothing short of a total disaster


In the age of drone technology and real-time intelligence sharing, you really have to work hard to have this kind of security hole and mess up

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. FRP

VIP security has never been simple or easy. It is known that elaborate instructions were published in the form of booklets printed during the visits and tours of the governors, before independence. Over the years this has been refined and made specific and functional.

After the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, it was realized that VVIP’s security had to be taken to another level. After an extensive brainstorming study on international best practices, it was in 1988 that the SPG law was introduced and an amendment introduced in 2019. This was the beginning and evolution of the Special Protection Group and the exercises of protection. security protocol as we find it today.

Over the years, the security of VIPs has become even more complex and difficult due to the presence of criminal and vested interests, as well as anti-national elements. In these circumstances, VIP security takes on greater importance and that is why the standard operating procedures developed have been prescribed so that the security cover is foolproof and foolproof.

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The first step of any VVIP visit is the delivery of the VIP program, which is then refined minute by minute. Once issued, the SPG team led by a senior officer is dispatched to the district where the proposed visit is supposed to take place. They hold Pre-requisite Safety Liaison (ASL) meetings to discuss all aspects of the visit, such as the arrival of the VIP, the route from the arrival location to the venue of the program, if there is an overnight stay, then identify a and a secure location for the VIP and provide impregnable security at this location. All medical eventualities are assessed and treated with super-specialty expertise. A fully equipped ambulance and a team of doctors accompany the VIP.

The VIP route is surveyed several times and sanitized. Obstacles are removed, dangers are identified and the appropriate deployment of force is assured. There are contingency plans to respond to all foreseeable emergencies and alternative routes, overnight rest areas are identified well in advance, with provisions for several backups and alternatives. In short, nothing is left to chance.

Proximity security is the responsibility of the SPG, while external security, perimeter security, traffic, firefighting devices and the armed reserve force are the responsibility of the police and the local administration.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Bhatinda in the Punjab was nothing short of a total disaster. The Prime Minister, the First Secretary and the DGP were not present to receive him, as usual. The Prime Minister had to travel to Hussainiwala, at a distance of 110 kilometers, because the helicopter flight was not possible due to inclement weather. The proposal was to go to the Firozpur rally after the function. The Prime Minister’s cavalcade barely traveled 30 km towards Hussainiwala when, to the shock and dismay of security officials, there was an inexplicable and disturbing presence of buses full of agitators, brazenly obstructing the Prime Minister’s convoy .

The convoy was dangerously trapped and could not turn around: as if that wasn’t enough, the agitators could be seen along the flyover, and surprisingly, police presence was minimal along the roads and on the rooftops. On the contrary, there are video clips of police officers on duty having tea with the agitators, which is simply not acceptable and should be treated very harshly as a dereliction of duty. The SPG commandos immediately took a stand and handled the situation with great professionalism, patience and presence of mind.

Back at Bhatinda Airport, the Prime Minister told the officers present that they should thank the Prime Minister of Punjab because he (the Prime Minister) could come back alive!

Rarely has the nation witnessed such botched arrangements for the Prime Minister. Multiple failures would include allowing the agitators to assemble and then travel by bus on the VIP’s designated route – to top it off, they had the audacity to break up the convoy’s movement. Police presence along the route was minimal. Obviously, the agitators did not come down from heaven; it took a long time to pick up, put the buses away and move around to hinder the VIP. This takes time. In the age of drone technology and real-time intelligence sharing, you really have to work hard to have that kind of security hole and mess.

There are many intelligence agencies that provide genuine and actionable intelligence, and a robust and proactive police force could easily have avoided this horrific situation. The claim that there were 10,000 police officers on duty seems unconvincing, as they were not visible and those present did not appear to have a sense of purpose, dressed casually and sipping tea with the agitators is certainly not the best form of policing. It’s ironic, especially since the Punjab police are known for their commitment and professionalism.

The insensitivity with which these failings have been defended is also unacceptable. To say that there was no security breach because the Prime Minister was not injured is just weird. There is a saying in the security apparatus that ratings of 99.9% indicate failure. Only 100 percent marks are the basic passing marks! There are important lessons to be learned from this visit and these should be presented in white paper form and shared with all states and law enforcement agencies, just to explain how not to do VVIP visits.

This nasty incident, with horrific fault lines, was completely avoidable, damaging the prestige of the country; its impact on the credibility and reputation of the Punjab police is even worse, requiring immediate course correction.

The writer is the former Director General of the Uttar Pradesh Police Department. The opinions expressed are personal.

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