Perhaps the times of terror are worst for children. And following enhanced threat perceptions in the wake of the Mumbai blasts and the death sentence to Parliament attack accused Mohd Afzal Guru, the government has decided to put the grandchildren of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee under the highest security cover.
The children, along with Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani’s son and daughter, will now get Z-plus security cover while travelling alone to school or to work. This entails the constant escort by a posse of armed personnel, drawn from various para-military and police forces.
They previously had no ring of protection, unless they were travelling with a VVIP. A meeting of security agencies, chaired by National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, felt that terrorists could try taking these children as hostages and seek a swap with jailed militants like Afzal. The move is apparently more of a precaution based on broad intelligence, rather than specific information.
SPG Act only mandates the protection of the PM and former PMs, along with spouses and children, by SPG personnel. It was amended to provide SPG protection to Sonia and her children Rahul and Priyanka. Sons-in-law of Singh, Sonia and Vajpayee, however, are not entitled to SPG protection, unless they are travelling with their spouses.
The PM’s son-in-law who teaches at Delhi University refused any security cover initially. It took much persuasion by security officials to relent.