The news of BJP MLA Sangeet Som (Muzaffarnagar riots accused) being accorded Z-plus security took me by surprise. As I rolled my eyes over the entire news report, it occurred that the Union Home Minister was convinced that Som faced serious threats. The news sparked a curiosity to know who all are eligible for state protection and what determines their eligibility.
Under Z-plus security, an individual gets round-the-clock protection from 28 National Security Guard commandos, with each of them adept in martial arts and other combat skills. These commandos are armed with high-end MP5 guns and modern communication gadgets. To further add tooth to the security cover, Cobra commandos, 12 home guards, an escort, a pilot and tailing vehicles are included. In short, it’s a royal feeling.
VVIPs with Z-plus security
In strictest term, this grandeur is reserved for a handful of few including Supreme Court and High Court judges, Cabinet Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, and senior bureaucrats. Even though P Chidambaram tried to prune the list of VVIPs with Z-plus security, it still has close to 40 names in it.
Only a few summers back, a wave of protest was seen in Uttar Pradesh over the alleged misuse of Z-plus security cover. It came to pass that the state had a deficit of at least 1 lakh policemen, but the government was spending anywhere between INR 8-10 crore every month to provide classified security to its protectees. Some police chiefs were highly critical of the fact that anti-terrorist organizations such as NSG is used for personal security of VVIPs or politicians.
The Congress might question the need for Amit Shah to have Z-plus security and the BJP can counter by referring to the special protection that Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra enjoy. For the aam admi, the politicians’ inclination to get Z-plus security reminds them a similar case – the ‘rampant misuse’ of red beacon lights on cars. The Supreme Court has been vocal about the “abysmal failure” of states to “check misuse of the vehicles with red lights.” There was a clear mandate against protecting the “less deserving” individuals.
When it comes to z-plus security, the part-time observer in me would find enough reason to interpret it as a glorious halo that every politician would like to have around him. Questions have been raised time and again as to whether politicians are using their clout to secure Z-plus security under the garb of ‘threat perception.’ When Beni Prasad Verma’s security level was upgraded to Z-plus category, he cited threats from Samajwadi party as a reason for demanding enhanced security cover. Now that’s an interesting excuse. If political rivalries translate into life threats, then every politician can demand highest level of security citing the same reason.
That would set a dangerous precedence.
Intelligence agencies had reportedly argued that at least 30 per cent of those being protected don’t need security at all and about half of the individuals enjoying high level protection could do with lighter security. It’s time that the Home Ministry adopted a more rational and non-partisan approach while analyzing the perceived threat against individuals and giving sanction to Z-plus security.