The number of VIPs protected by central security guards has risen significantly over the past few years — standing at a staggering 454 people in 2016, to be precise.
The list has made a quantum jump since 2012 when 332 people were under the protection of security agencies that report to the Union home ministry.
Any addition to the list increases the burden on taxpayers, who foot the bill for VIP protection, and strains the resources of security forces that are not raised or trained to guard VIPs — such as personnel from the National Security Guard (NSG).
The elite NSG commandoes, the bulwark of India’s counter-terrorism and anti-hijacking defence, and central paramilitary forces such as the CRPF, BSF, ITBP and CISF are deputed to do VIP security duty.
Except for the CISF, which gets special training for the purpose, no other paramilitary force has the mandate for VIP security. But such limitations are apparently ignored to accommodate an outpouring of requests to put people on the VIP security list — sometimes considered a status symbol rather than a necessity.
A home ministry spokesperson dismissed allegations that the list is prepared arbitrarily. “The number of protectees keeps changing depending on reports and inputs received from the security agencies,” he said.
Sushil Kumar Shinde, the UPA-era predecessor of home minister Rajnath Singh, said as much. “Only on the basis of recommendations from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), we order security for anyone. We don’t do it on our own,” he said.
A government official said it was during Shinde’s and Singh’s tenures that the number of central protectees increased rapidly. “When Chidambaram was home minister … the IB never got any requests from the minister’s office to provide security to anyone.”
The current list includes nine expelled Congress lawmakers from Uttarakhand who revolted against chief minister Harish Rawat and joined the BJP on May 18. It has BJP’s Kisan Morcha chief Vijay Pal Singh Tomar too.
Some officials allegedly wanted to upgrade the security of journalist Umesh Kumar, who carried out a sting on chief minister Rawat, from the existing Y-category to Z. But the idea was shelved to avoid a political backlash.
There are two types of security, positional and threat-based, divided into four categories: Z-Plus, Z, Y and X. The Z-Plus has more than 40 guards while Z, Y, and X have around 30, 20, and three.
In 2012, there were 20 people on the Z-Plus list, which has now risen to 49. Likewise, the Z list has increased from 48 in 2012 to 72 in 2016.