After dithering for five years, the Home Ministry has removed X-category security to 30 individuals, including former Chief Justice of India Y S Sabarwal, triggering concern among protectees who are now making all out efforts to retain their police cover.
Home Minister P Chidambaram, who himself has refused to take any security, took the decision as he is of the opinion that security should be provided only to those who either face credible threats or are holding Constitutional posts. With this, the list of X-Category protectees has come down to 20 after a detailed review by security and intelligence agencies, Home Ministry officials said.
The X-category protectees are given one personal security officer for eight hours, which means sparing three policemen for an individual. The drill will now be followed for VIPs enjoying Y, Z and Z-plus category security, they said.As the news of security withdrawal of X-category protectees spread, the Home Ministry was flooded with requests of VIPs to continue their police cover. "VIPs from various backgrounds and mostly politicians are trying all possible connections to prove the genuineness of their security cover before the Home Minister," a senior official said.
During a high-level review meeting convened by the Home Ministry, withdrawal of the elite National Security Guard cover for some VIPs including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, former Union Minister Lalu Prasad, Rabri Devi, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi was recommended but a final decision was to be taken by Chidambaram. However, this triggered a massive protest from the political parties and the government said in the Lok Sabha that no hasty decision would be taken in withdrawing security of VIPs.
The withdrawal of X-category security is seen as the first step taken by Chidambaram in the direction of rationalising of security cover for VIPs. Security of nearly 200 VIPs who are central protectees was reviewed during the meeting. These VIPs are guarded either by NSG or personnel of some other para-military forces. The meeting felt that security of former ministers Shivraj Patil, Ram Vilas Paswan and Jagmohan be downgraded while in the case of former external affairs minister Natwar Singh, there should be a complete withdrawal. The meeting had recommended that NSG security to BJP leader L K Advani, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anti-terrorist forum leader M S Bitta should remain, the sources said.
The expenditure incurred due to the VIP security was also a constant financial burden on the Ministry, they said. In some of the cases, it was observed that VIPs were enjoying state security more as a status symbol and not due to any threat perception, they said.