The Modi government would review the security cover of former prime ministers and their families at a meeting later this week to reduce the burden on the special protection group (SPG), home ministry sources said.
Set up in 1985, a year after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi, the SPG is tasked with protecting the prime minister, former PMs and their families based on threat perception.
Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the SPG guards seven other people -- former PM Manmohan Singh, his wife Gursharan Kaur, ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his foster-daughter Namita Bhattacharya, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her two children Rahul and Priyanka.
In the meeting, the threat these seven protectees face would be assessed and their security decided accordingly, sources said.
The review comes at a time when the security establishment is debating handing over the security of some of the protectees to any of the central paramilitary forces.
But the government would have to navigate political sensitivities attached to security cover.
The SPG cover for all except the prime minister is extended for a year after getting a feedback from security agencies.
Last year when SPG protection for Manmohan Singh and his wife was reviewed, there was a talk of a paramilitary force taking over the duties due to a negligible threat, an official involved in the exercise told HT.
“But the move lost steam when it was pointed out that only two years had passed since Singh demitted office while his predecessor, Vajpayee, was under the SPG protection even after leaving office 12 years ago and he doesn’t even move out of his residence,” the officer said.
The 92-year-old BJP veteran has been in poor health, largely restricting him to his New Delhi home.
Last year, Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma shot down his team’s suggestion to hand over Priyanka Gandhi’s security to another force, the official said.
SPG chief Arun Kumar Sinha, IB director Rajiv Jain and
secretary (security) in the cabinet secretariat RK Kini, who is the administrative in-charge of the SPG, will be among those attending the meeting.
At any given time, the SPG has 10,000 personnel who are on deputation from state police and paramilitary forces such as the Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force.
Given the nature of the job, the government doesn’t share the break-up of personnel deployed with a protectee.