A close aide of Rahul Gandhi had conveyed to the government that the armoured vehicles provided to the Congress vice president were “suffocating” and a “health hazard”, a claim rejected on Tuesday by the Union Home Ministry. In a letter to the director of the Special Protection Group (SPG), Vivek Srivastava, the aide Kaushal Kishore Vidyarthee conveyed the Congress leader’s reservation in using Tata Safari armoured vehicle assigned to him while travelling in the country.
In the letter, sent on April 28, 2016, Vidyarthee said the current fleet of armoured cars have no proper or adequate circulation/ventilation or air in the passenger compartment. “To be specific, windows of the armoured cars do not retract beyond a few centimetres making it impossible for the protectee (Rahul) to meet and greet party workers while in the car. Further long car journeys in a suffocating vehicle with less than recommended or acceptable levels of oxygen itself are a health hazard for the protectee,” it said.
However, a home ministry official refuted the claims, saying Rahul is provided with Tata Safari armoured vehicle, which is also used by top ministers like home minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley. The Tata Safari armoured vehicle is also used by many Z-plus category protectee and is considered to be safe and comfortable, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, the home minister said in Parliament that in the past two years, Rahul had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours and he did not use the bullet proof car on 100 occasions. Singh also said Rahul went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for it to provide proper security.