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Punjab’s VIP security cooks

For a state which has seen prolonged phases of militancy,Punjab still foots a heavy bill on VIP security.

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur |
September 9, 2013 2:54:21 am

Even as the ruling Badals in Punjab are in for yet another security beef-up,getting new luxury armoured vehicles reportedly following disclosures made by alleged LeT terrorist Abdul Karim Tunda,the opposition Congress has been accusing Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal,who is also the state’s home minister,of “playing politics over security to VIPs”.

For a state which has seen prolonged phases of militancy,Punjab still foots a heavy bill on VIP security. The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently disposed of a PIL on security provided to VIPs outside the state after the state home department informed the court that it has furnished details to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that it provides security to 25 protectees residing outside the state at an annual expense of Rs 9.2 crore.

The petition was moved following reports on Punjab Police personnel being on VIP duty with liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother Hardeep,both of whom were killed in a shootout last year.

The Punjab Congress has alleged that Sukhbir’s home department “cooks up” the threat perception and the deployment of security is “politically motivated”. Party spokesman Sukhpal Khaira said the police’s intelligence wing that decides the threat perception as well as its security wing that provides cover work under the home minister. “Sukhbir is using a pick-and-choose policy to make his political opponents bow before him to beg for security. In the name of pruning security following Supreme Court’s directions,he has taken away even the few security personnel given to his staunch opponents,” Khaira said at a press conference in April.

Under the pruning exercise,started in 2012,a few thousand policemen have been withdrawn from VIP duty in two phases. Interestingly,even some SAD leaders have alleged bias in “security matters”. Some in Congress alleged only those opposition MLAs and leaders with close ties with Badal junior and the DGP have been granted security cover. For instance,four guards that Khaira got were withdrawn this year while his political rival Bibi Jagir Kaur,who had to step down from the cabinet following her conviction in the murder case of her daughter,has a police pilot,escort vehicles and several guards. Another former MLA,Gurpreet Kangar,vice-president of the state Congress,alleged that his security was withdrawn despite three attacks on him and his associates.

Punjab’s affidavit furnished in March this year to the Supreme Court says 4,120 police personnel guard 951 public functionaries and 318 private individuals. In addition,there are 20 sections of CRPF and four sections of CISF for “highly-threatened protectees”. Sukhbir himself is the most protected VIP with 30 police personnel and one section of CISF while on the move and one SP and two sections of CRPF and CISF each at his residence.

According to the affidavit,Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is not in the list of those given Z category security while Sukhbir’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia and Sukhbir’s wife and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal figure in the list.

Sukhdeep is a special correspondent based in Chandigarh

Sukhdeep.kaur@expressindia.com

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