They are smart,suave and mostly dressed in black suits and often with aviators covering their eyes. They stand ramrod straight,hands crossed,no expression on their face. The Bluetooth earpiece,the hint of the hilt of a sophisticated weapon or weapons inside the clothing,and a beeping walkie-talkie completes the look.
Meet the latest trend in Punjab politics – private bodyguards who look as if they have come straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster and who can tackle any impending threat to the ground.
Apprehending violence in some of the disturbed areas,particularly in the border areas of Punjab in Ferozepur comprising nine Assembly constituencies,a number of politicians have hired these lean,mean professionals to protect themselves and their families in the rub up to the elections scheduled on January 30.
In fact,the candidates here are relying more on the private security men than on the designated personnel of the Punjab Police. Theres s reason too for the same. The private security professionals not only boast of having their own wireless communication systems,but they also provide a complete security cover – right from conducting a recce of the spot where the candidate has to go for campaigning,to undertake a security scan of the place by sending an advance team,and monitoring the movement of the VIP vehicles.
Mostly hired from agencies located in New Delhi and Gurgaon,most of these bodyguards have underwent specialised combat training at professional guards training schools located in Israel and the United States of America.
We are here to ensure the safety and security of the candidate with whom we are moving around. A few of us are even trained to diffuse bombs,but we dont think that we would be required to put on display such skills here in Punjab, a bodyguard of one of the candidates in Ferozepur said requesting not to be named in the print for security reasons.
Security is an issue with us and we ensure that the person,whom we are guarding,moves around without any fear, he added.
Malkit Singh,the Congress from Jalalabad Assembly constituency against Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal,said,The Punjab Police have provided me with three gunmen for security. Out of the three,two have taken medical leave citing ill-health while the third one cant even match my pace during campaigning. You have to make our own arrangements especially when you are contesting against the states Deputy Chief Minister, Malkit Singh said,adding that none of his family members were provided security cover by the state police even though we face a threat from the rivals and anti-social elements.
In such a scenario,the private security becomes very necessary, he added.
Echoing similar sentiments,another Congress candidate,Gurmeet Singh Sodhi (Guru Harsahai),said,I have three gunmen provided to me by the Punjab Police,but what about my family? It is not that I have hired these securitymen,but I knew a few people who are moving around with me ensuring my safety. Similarly a few of my known persons,who are trained in guarding people are ensuring the safety of my family members as well..
Meanwhile,refuting the apprehensions and allegations of not providing adequate security cover to the candidates,Director General of Police,Anil Kaushik,said,Each and every candidate has been provided with adequate security cover as per the norms. Each candidate of a recognised political party has been given three gunmen,while the other candidates have been provided with two gunmen each.