Managing VIP visits | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Managing VIP visits

punjab Updated: Sep 16, 2013 09:26 IST
Col Avnish Sharma (retd)

Visits and inspections by VIPs hold a universal enigmatic fear. Since these are few and far between, the impression gathered by the dignitary normally dictates the host's professional future. This is especially pertinent to the army due to obvious fallouts of the sensitive dimension.

The common faux pas include failure of the PA (public address or the mike) system during the VIP's speech, undesired obstructions appearing suddenly ahead of the VIP cavalcade, heap of garbage left unattended and the embarrassing appearance of aggrieved people despite strict briefing to the contrary.

A military unit devotes considerable energy and resources to stage-manage visits of senior officers. An incident comes to my mind. Our unit was occupying TRH (temporary hutments) accommodation without a foolproof and sealed boundary. Stray dogs were a menace. Availability of ample food, courtesy our animal-friendly troops, contributed to a manifold accretion of the four-legged clan. All were living in perfect harmony till the general officer commanding (GOC) decided to come for an inspection.

Brainstorming sessions to control the dog menace made us arrive at a magnanimous consensus of organising a 'food fair' for the canine community at a secluded place in the unit lines. This would ensure 'man's best friend's' concentration at one place rather than straying all over during the GOC's one-hour stay in the unit. The commanding officer (CO) was impressed with the young captain who came up with this face-saving suggestion and promised to reward him after the visit. Everything was progressing well till a column of stray dogs, in a bid to rush towards the 'food fair', were almost run over by the GOC's open jeep, being driven by the hitherto proud CO.

In a bid to save face, the GOC was taken to the feasting enclosure of the stray dogs to give an impression of the unit's love for the homeless destitutes. The captain was reprimanded after the visit for the faux pas; he blamed it on the cook for using aromatic spices and the 'wind direction', which attracted dogs from neighbouring units to join in the feast.

Given the circumstances, the overall management of a VVIP's recent visit to our city was on expected lines. The zero-error syndrome while dealing with security issues is understandable, notwithstanding the inconvenience to the public for a few hours. The unprecedented closing of the golf club for practically the whole day, which is en route the VVIP path, however, intrigued the golfing fraternity.

Some felt that the city administration doubted the golfing skills of the members who might hit wayward shots and inflict damage to the passing cavalcade. Others blamed it on the recent fracas at the club and the consequent apprehension among the city authorities of a repeat during the 'quarter minute' of the VIP cavalcade crossing the golf club. The exact reason, however, may elude us forever.