The Delhi High Court has knocked the wind out of the sails of VIPs with its scathing observation that important entities who fear for their lives “should just stay home”. Even as residents of Delhi, the city that is home to the world’s largest fleet of self-declared Very Important Persons, chortle in barely concealed delight, one wonders what the court’s directive will amount to. The public has never been, after all, enthusiastic about paying ‘protection money’ to guard politicians. Pruning the list of politicians on the ‘protected list’ — as if it was they were some kind of endangered species or something — has always been an issue. The same points has been made umpteen numbers of times: the threat perception must be reviewed every six months; the protection provided is not a professional perk.
But the list of VIPs around a ring of gun-toting gentlemen has only grown. Power-welders have retired, but their police cover has continued. Delhi has 391 VIPs who are guarded by 9,000 personnel drawn from the Delhi Police, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Central Industrial Security Force. Surely, their job was more than just accompanying the venerable lot to markets etc. This time around, the court has clearly stated that politicians aren’t the automatic target of every ill-wisher. So they should either get off the protected list or should avoid public places where they inconvenience ‘normal’ citizens.
But it must be realised that this particular status symbol cannot be wished away. It must be replaced by a swankier status symbol. How about investing in some technology to massage the VIP ego in a non-intrusive way? All it has to be is exclusive and expensive. Let the new aspiration among the VIPs be: ‘How VIP is my security?’ Since the threat perception is more in the mind, the security paradigm could be shifted to this more nebulous realm? So it won’t be how many security officers are around the VIP, but how invisible (think Mossad, think FBI, think Harry Potter) are the bodyguards. That should get politicians to free policemen to do what they’re meant to do.