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How security became a status symbol

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 12:49 IST

Hindustan Times
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Before the declaration of the shifting of the Capital from Calcutta, Delhi was just a provincial town of some commercial interest. The police force was also adequate only for a provincial town.

Even after the shifting in 1911, things moved slowly. It was an incident in 1912 that triggered the genesis of the VIP security culture we see in Delhi today. An attempt was made to assassinate Viceroy Lord Hardinge, masterminded by revolutionary Ras Behari Bose.

Though Hardinge escaped with slight injuries, the incident shook up the police administration to change according to the city’s new found status as imperial Capital. When construction started at Raisina Hills, a small police post was erected with two head constables and nine foot constables. Their numbers kept rising over the years, according to the British government’s home department records. Additions were made to the number of policemen guarding the Viceroy’s House (Rashtrapati Bhavan) and the Secretariat. The number of cars and trucks provided to Delhi Police saw a steady rise too. While in 1924 police constables were using muskets, there was a demand to provide them .303 bore rifles with magazines by 1937. In 1939, policemen protecting the Viceroy’s House got .455 bore revolvers.

While the Viceroy got maximum protection, other VIPs wanted their share of status symbols too. A demand was made for special facilities for the cars of members of the Executive Council in 1925. The members wanted special ‘armlets’ for their drivers so their cars can pass through without being stopped and also got special parking space. Instead of the ‘armlets’, the VIP cars got a small blue flag, with a red dot in the middle. This was later replaced with the well-recognised beacons of today.