It is the desire of every second-rate punk on the fringes of politics to get himself a gunman that so angers ordinary citizens
There is a certain futility to writing about VIP security. The general public is sick
of politicians and their gunmen. All security specialists believe
our system is seriously flawed. And even politicians themselves
claim they regard the security as intrusive and unnecessary.
And yet nothing ever changes. In fact, things get steadily worse.
Two months ago, I was sufficiently moved by H D Deve Gowda's protestations
he was only a humble farmer who did not enjoy the trappings
of power to write him an open letter in these pages urging him to dismantle the Imperial Prime Ministership. To his credit, the
then prime minister responded by inviting me to breakfast at Race
Course Road and reiterating he hated the pomp and ceremony
of the job.
Alas, just when I allowed myself to get a little optimistic that
something would now be done, Sitaram Kesri pulled the plug on
poor Deve Gowda's government.
Nevertheless, I have still not given up hope. Deve Gowda's successor,
Inder Gujral, has displayed a rare sensitivity in his first month
in office. He has called for a review of the security system.
And his attitude suggests that as he knows he is not
going to serve a full term as prime minister regardless of how
many compromises he makes, he has decided he will use his
relatively short spell in office to do not what is expedient but
what is right.
There are two distinct aspects to what we term VIP security. The
first is the desire to honour important people. It is for this
reason that we block roads, stop traffic, provide motorcades and
outriders and inconvenience ordinary citizens.
The second is the desire to protect those at risk. It is easy
to minimise the security threat to politicians and important people
but it would be foolish to pretend that it does not exist -- there
have been enough assassinations over the last 15 years to prove
It is not my position we should not afford important visitors
a certain level of ceremonial pomp. In every country, a degree
of protocol is regarded as acceptable. If the President of India
went to London, he would get a motorcade.
The problem is not with the principles of security. The problem
is with the mindlessness with which these principles are applied.
It is the stupidity of those in charge of VIP security that causes
the inconvenience. And now, it is the desire of every second-rate
punk on the fringes of politics to get himself a gunman that so
angers ordinary citizens.
Let me give you three instances from my own experience over the
One: I missed a flight from Calcutta to Bombay because the police
actually shut down the bypass that connects the city to the airport
on the grounds that the prime minister of Laos would be taking
that route. All airport-bound traffic was diverted to a series
of narrow by-lanes, huge jams resulted and a journey that should
have taken 45 minutes took two hours.
Two: I waited for an hour (along with at least 40 other
cars) at the foothills of the Nilgiris because the
Tamil Nadu governor was allegedly going to pass that way and the police
had stopped all traffic.
Three: my plane circled Delhi for half an hour because a VVIP
aircraft was expected and no planes can land or takeoff when this
is likely to happen.
There is no way in which any of these examples conformed to the
basic principles of security. The Laos prime minister would
have been quite happy with a motorcade or outriders. He probably
didn't even know they had shut the main airport road in his
honour. The Tamil Nadu governor never turned up -- eventually
they let the traffic go on the grounds that his plans had been
changed. In any case I doubt if he knew how many people had been
inconvenienced for his sake. And as for the rule about closing
Delhi airport because of VVIP movement, that is so absurd that
I don't see why Gujral
doesn't just call a meeting tomorrow and scrap it.
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