3,360 lost security cover in 2017: Report
The number of VIPs — ministers, MPs, MLAs, judges, bureaucrats, and private individuals — getting police protection reduced by at least 16% between 2016 and 2017, down from 20,828 to 17,468, according to data from a Union home ministry think-tank.
The report, released last Friday by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), shows that Uttar Pradesh has made the biggest reduction in the number of VIPs under police protection — from 1,901 in 2016 to just 110 in 2017. A large chunk of this reduction came after March 2017, when Yogi Adityanath came to power in the state following a massive victory in the assembly elections by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Adityanath said soon after coming to power that “those who are enjoying security cover for the sake of status symbol, should be prepared to part with them”.
Uttar Pradesh director general of police OP Singh said: “We have been very strict in providing security cover as we feel that security should not be treated as a status symbol and should only be accorded to those who need it. We now have a realistic threat assessment with regard to who actually requires it, hence we have been able to reduce the number of VIPs to a large extent and divert the personnel to other duties.”
In 2016, 4,681 UP Police officers were deployed for the security of 1,901 VIPs. This number reduced to 1,803 policemen for 110 VIPs (in 2017).
On the other hand, police protectees in West Bengal and Punjab rose significantly between 2016 and 2017. In West Bengal, the number increased from 2,207 in 2016 to 2,698 in 2017, while in Punjab it rose from 1,852 in 2016 to 2,344 in 2017. To be sure, West Bengal has seen increasing political violence over the past few years and through much of 2017; Punjab saw several leaders of right-wing organisations being targeted by Khalistani terrorists. The data shows that highest numbers of VIPs are in Bihar, at 3,052, despite a small decrease in the number of protectees from 3,200 in 2016.
Punjab’s director general of police didn’t respond to HT’s calls, nor did a West Bengal government representative.
Dilip Bandyopadhyay, joint commissioner of Kolkata Police (intelligence), said, “We do not comment on security issues at all.” A senior Trinamool Congress minister requesting anonymity said, “The chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) herself is in-charge of the home portfolio and none would comment on this matter.”
Raveen Thukral, media advisor to Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, said that the numbers also reflected the state’s efforts to ensure all security personnel are now “deputed on record”. “Captain Amarinder Singh, immediately after taking over (in 2017), directed streamlining of the manpower employed by the Punjab Police. Under the previous regime, security personnel were being deployed without proper records being maintained. In contrast, security is now given on need basis, with periodic reviews undertaken to ensure that there is no abuse of power in this regard.”
Former director general of the Uttar Pradesh Police, Prakash Singh, said the reduction in the number of VIPs across the country is a welcome sign. “It’s a positive sign that the number of VIPs has come down but it is no consolation that number of security personnel hasn’t changed. There should be more boots on the ground for public and in police stations,” he said.
“The VIP culture still dominates the Indian mindset, which should be done away with. Only in exceptional cases, security should be provided. Generally what happens is that a person manages to get a threat letter and the local police provide him/her security under political pressure or recommendation from the head of police. Government should try and bring this number (of VIPs) to 5,000,” Singh added.
A senior MHA official said, “Reducing the number of police protectees is part of a larger exercise to divert the police for important law and order duties. It was often seen that people who don’t require security kept it for a longer period. The Intelligence Bureau and state police forces have been repeatedly told to be realistic while analysing a threat to a person. This number will further reduce in the coming years.”
To be sure, even though the number of VIPs getting police protection has come down significantly, the number of police personnel deployed for their security has increased marginally with 56,933 personnel deployed for 17,468 VIPs in 2017 — or roughly three policemen per person as against 56,900 for 20,828 VIPs in 2016.
On the other hand, an average of one police personnel was deployed in the country for every 663 ordinary citizens in 2017, the BPRD data revealed. There were about 1.94 million police personnel in the country, while the total population in India on October 1, 2017, was estimated to be 1.29 billion. The BPRD report did not include VIPs under police protection in Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh. In 2016, 2,075 persons in J&K were under police protection.
In Delhi — where the police comes under the Union home ministry — 465 people had police protection in 2017 as compared to 489 in 2016, according to BPRD data.