Well-connected people in Punjab seeking to boost their status by deploying gun-wielding policemen, citing the pretext of "threat to life", will have to beat the retreat. The Punjab government is overhauling its policy on security cover.
In the first phase, the state government has set May 14 as the deadline for the police brass to prune back the security cover of several self-styled VIPs. From this exercise, the state expects to pull out at least 2,000 personnel deployed in an "unauthorised" manner across the state, government sources said.
The state's politicians, police officers, bureaucrats and businessmen have a penchant for personal security officers - and this seems to have pushed the government's hand.
On Wednesday, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal held a meeting attended by principal secretary (home) DS Bains, director general of police Sumedh Singh Saini and additional director general of police (intelligence and security) HS Dhillon among others.
"I have issued very strict instructions and sought the compliance report by Monday. All cops deployed on personal security without authorisation will be withdrawn by Monday in the first phase," Sukhbir told Hindustan Times.
Despite facing shortage of personnel, Punjab police have been unable to reduce the list of those seeking VIP protection, because of political pressure.
A senior police officer quoting from recently released data said that the state deploys more personnel for VIP security than the sanctioned strength. According to conservative estimates, the state has deployed more than 8,000 policemen for the security of about 1,600 VIPs, depleting the already limited resources of the force.
During Wednesday's meeting it was decided that "no one irrespective of party affiliations and stature" will be given more police personnel than the entitlement. It was also decided that the threat perception will be reviewed critically by a committee, on basis of which security cover given without valid grounds will be drastically cut down. "In the second phase of this exercise, we expect to withdraw 2,000 more policemen who will be deployed on more productive work," said an officer.
The deputy chief minister warned officers posted in the districts against providing unauthorised cover to appease "well-connected people" without approval from the committee constituted for the purpose.
"I will take strict action against cops violating the norms," he said.
Some retired police officers are said to have as many as 50 personnel on personal security. "The axe is set to fall on such misuse of the force in the name of security," a government functionary said.