Rise in security cover might put agencies under further pressure

By ZRG | Updated: Mar 19, 2013, 16:47 PM IST

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

The home ministry decision earlier this month to expand the list of VIPs awarded Z plus security in the country might increase pressure on security agencies already running short of manpower.

The government extended the highest security cover to six individuals including two politicians. Earlier, in February 2013, the apex court directed Delhi Police to withdraw cops from VIP security and deploy them for the safety of women in the capital.

The home ministry decision to extend the cover comes at a time when all the four security agencies – the National Security Guard (NSG), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Border Security Force (BSF) - have been facing mounting staff shortage. The gap between sanctioned and actual strength of these armed forces hasn’t much changed in the past three years.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis based on data updated by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed continuous shortfall of officers in security agencies.

Pressure is for real, claimed Prakash Singh, former director general of the BSF. He opined, “Diverting of manpower for VIP security certainly puts pressure on the security agencies since these have traditionally been short staffed.” Singh argued for a change in strategy: “The government should make some different arrangement for the VIP security.”

As per an unofficial estimate, the Centre alone protects over 380 VIPs, with at least three policemen guarding one VIP. Depending upon the threat perception to the person, the category is divided into four parts – X, Y, Z and Z+.

Around 35 VIPs are there in the Z plus security list and are protected by 35 to 80 cops. Recently, Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma and BSP MP Brajesh Pathak with four others have been added to the Z-plus security list.

Individuals enjoying the Z-plus category protection get commandos drawn from the NSG, CISF and ITBP. Apart from Z-plus, three other categories - Z, Y and X - provide 22, 11 and two armed personnel respectively to high-risk individuals.

A total of 37 VIPs and VVIPs are under the CISF security cover at present and those under the ‘Z-plus’ category of the central force include Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab Revenue minister Bikram Jit Singh Majithia, UP politician Amar Singh (Z category in Delhi) and Chairman of the anti-terrorist front MS Bitta. The total deployment of NSG personnel for VIP duties is 512, updated until October 2012.

But, does deployment of paramilitary forces for VIP protection, bring happiness to the soldiers? An official with ITBP said, “Although providing special security cover to VIPs is difficult for the agency yet the duty brings happiness for the soldiers.” ITBP personnel are deployed on the higher altitude Himalayas and it is a positive step for them to get deployed in the plains, the official explained.

The home ministry on the basis of threat perception provides security to individuals. More so, considering it as a priority, as per the annual report of home ministry for 2011-12 special training courses for police commandos in VIP security duties are being conducted at training institutions of NSG, BSF, ITBP and CISF.

NSG which is extensively used to guard VIPs and VVIPs, especially those in the Z-plus category is divided into two groups – the Special Action Group (SAG) and the Special Rangers Group (SRG). NSG commandos were first deployed for VIP security duties in 1992. It was raised under an Act of the Parliament in 1984 as a federal contingency force.

In some cases, deployment of special guards for VIPs is also seen as a status symbol for politicians. Recently, union external affairs minister Salman Khushid and P Chidambaram earlier in his role as the home minister disfavoured such an arrangement.