Modi security breach: Road route plan not a last-minute decision, says govt
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s road route from Bathinda to Ferozepur was planned as a contingency days in advance and discussed with Punjab authorities, officers familiar with the developments said on Thursday, rejecting the state government’s assertion that taking the road was a last-minute decision.
The road journey was decided as a contingency plan on January 1 and 2 during an advance security liaison (ASL) meeting with Punjab Police and a rehearsal was done for the same on Tuesday, the officers quoted above said. The road journey was cleared by the director general of police (DGP) of Punjab, Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, they added, requesting anonymity.
An officer said in the ASL, a mandatory exercise done before PM’s trips anywhere, everything was discussed in detail including the route survey and vulnerable points that were to be secured with strong police deployment.
“In light of intelligence inputs regarding sabotage possibilities, strong police deployment was emphasised in the ASL report (a detailed ASL report is prepared after such meetings which is shared with concerned agencies/police),” this officer said, requesting anonymity. “Even the contingency rehearsal for the road journey from Bathinda to Ferozepur was carried out on January 4.”
These version of events contradicted the Punjab government’s statement that the PM’s motorcade was stuck on a Punjab highway for 15-20 minutes on Wednesday -- an unprecedented breach in his security as a result of a blockade by protesting farmers -- because the decision to not take a helicopter and go by road was made last minute, and not communicated adequately. Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi had said on Wednesday that he had no information that the PM will travel by road.
The development came on a day the Union home ministry constituted a three-member committee to probe the lapse. The panel will be led by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, secretary (security), Cabinet secretariat and comprise Balbir Singh, joint director, Intelligence Bureau and S Suresh, inspector general, SPG. The report will be submitted at the earliest.
A second officer said that when on Wednesday, a helicopter ride from Bathinda was ruled out, special protection group (SPG) director Arun Kumar Sinha discussed with the Punjab DGP the possibility of undertaking a “safe and secure road journey”. “After getting clearance for road journey from the DGP, road journey was planned. In fact, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Bathinda piloted the motorcade from Bathinda to Ferozepur district border and SSP Bathinda (Ajay Maluja) piloted the motorcade from Ferozepur district border,” said the officer, requesting anonymity.
Punjab Police refused to comment. Additional director general of police, G Nageswara Rao, who was made the security incharge for the PM’s visit, said: “It wont’ be appropriate for me to comment anything at this stage in the media.”
About the threat to Modi and intelligence inputs, the first officer said the inputs about a protest that may result in road blocks on the PM’s route were also shared with Punjab Police. He added that the control room failed to inform the pilot vehicle of the PM’s convoy about the protestors. “If the information about the blockade was relayed to PM’s motorcade on time, the situation of getting stuck on a flyover could have been averted,” said the officer.
The second officer said that Punjab Police didn’t make any effort to clear the route once the PM was stranded and senior state officers present on the site were “ineffective”. As per the SPG Blue Book (a book containing a set of guidelines with information on the rules that are to be followed to ensure security of a VVIP; not a public document and meant only for concerned agencies), a car for the chief secretary and DGP is earmarked in the PM’s motorcade.
A communication shared by Punjab Police with all units and districts on January 4, reviewed by HT, suggests the local police were asked to keep a watch on movement of farmers and make necessary arrangements. “There are large numbers of dharnas going on in most of the districts. Farmers are also likely to hold dharnas on January 5th. These dharnas may result in road blocks at many places. Please make traffic diversion plan in advance,” the Punjab Police communication said.
Union minister Anurag Thakur hinted on Thursday that ministry of home affairs was planning “big” action in the security breach. “The home ministry has also spoken about taking action. After gathering information, whatever steps...big and tough decisions will be taken by it.”