Updated: September 16, 2020 1:40:45 pm
Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut has been accorded Y-plus category of CRPF security by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the wake of her spat with Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, and after she said she feared for her life.
Eleven commandos have been tasked with protecting Ranaut. Two of the commandos will provide her with mobile security, while one will guard her residence at all times across the country.
So anyone who is threatened, and who expresses a threat to their life, will get central government protection?
No, they won’t. This protection is informally called “VIP security”, and it is generally given only to someone who holds a position of consequence either in the government or in civil society.
The Centre is generally reluctant to liberally give protection to individuals, and a large number of even “important people” whose lives have been found to have been in danger, are provided security by state police, based on assessments of the threat made by the state government concerned.
In cases where the central government does decide to extend security to an individual, who decides the level of protection that is to be given?
The level of security needed by any individual is decided by the MHA, based on inputs received from intelligence agencies which include the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
The agencies mostly provide a subjective measure of the threat to life or injury to a person from terrorists or any other group, based on information generated from their sources. The information can include intercepts of phone conversations, human intelligence, or a credible analysis of an open threat.
Certain individuals, by reason of positions they hold in government, are automatically entitled to security cover. They include the Prime Minister and his immediate family. The Home Minister and officials such as the National Security Advisor too, generally get security cover because of the positions they occupy.
So why didn’t another actor, Deepika Padukone, get protection when she faced a threat of beheading by the Karni Sena in 2017?
Indian intelligence agencies are not accountable to any statutory body, and are subject only to the internal oversight of the MHA and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The intelligence inputs that these agencies generate, particularly in cases where VIP security is involved, is neither put out in the public domain nor is it open to scrutiny by any other agency.
Because of this opacity in functioning, and the fact that there is virtually no accountability except to the government in power, VIP security is open to manipulation by the executive.
A large number of protectees, it has been alleged, are under security cover purely for political or “prestige” reasons, and not necessarily because of any genuine threat.
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What are the various levels of protection extended to individuals by the governments at the Centre and the states?
There are broadly six categories of security cover: X, Y, Y-plus, Z, Z-plus, and SPG (Special Protection Group).
While the SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other protection categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs of a threat. The number of personnel guarding the protectee differ from category to category. The X category is the most basic level of protection.
* The X category on average entails just one gunman protecting the individual.
* The Y category has one gunman for mobile security, and one (plus four on rotation) for static security.
* Y-plus has two gunmen (plus four on rotation) for mobile security, and one (plus four on rotation) for residence security.
* Z has six gunmen for mobile security and two (plus 8) for residence security.
* Z-plus protectees have 10 security personnel for mobile security, and two (plus 8) for residence security.
There are various kinds of security cover even within these levels. These include security of residence, mobile security, office security, and inter-state security.
Different VIPs are given different kinds of security cover depending upon the threat perception. For example, if the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh is assessed to have a threat from Maoists only in his state, the Centre may choose to give him residence and mobile security only in his state. He may be given appropriate security by the state police when he travels out.
Similarly, some may have a threat only when they travel, so they are given an escort force.
Also, different forces may be engaged for residence and mobile security. So, many protectees get residence security from state police, but mobile security from a Central Armed Police Force (CAPF, which include the CRPF, CISF, ITBP, etc.).
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So, which are the forces engaged in VIP security?
For VIPs other than the PM, the government has mandated the National Security Guard (NSG), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to provide security cover.
The government has intended over the years to reduce the burden of VIP security on the NSG, which is the most sought-after security cover. The reason, it has been argued, is that the core function of the NSG is counter-terrorism operations, not providing VIP security. It is for this reason that Home Minister Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval have been given CPRF and CISF cover respectively.
And who pays for the cost of the security cover?
Anyone to whom the government provides security after assessment by intelligence agencies, gets the protection for free.
However, those who have an elaborate security cover such as those in the Z and Z-plus categories, with many personnel for both residence and mobile security, may have to factor in accommodation for these security personnel.
Former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam had in 2014 famously refused VIP security provided by the government after his retirement, because he had moved to his ancestral home which did not have the space to accommodate so many personnel.
Until the time he was CJI, Sathasivam had Z-plus security, which was downgraded to Z category of CRPF security after he retired.
However, the government can choose to charge a private individual for their security cover even after assessing a threat to them. Thus, industrialist Mukesh Ambani was provided Z category CRPF cover in 2013 after the IB assessed there was a threat to his life. However, in its order, the government asked the CRPF to charge Ambani Rs 15 lakh per month for the cover.
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