Keeping Them Safe

It takes Rs 100 annually to secure VVIPs in a cash starved state. Safwat Zargar reports the largesse of a system that scrooge on the people it serves       

NSG commandos stand during opening of their new hub in Hyderabad
Representational pic: NSG commandos

Cavalcades of police vehicles and security guards flocking politicians and lawmakers is a common sight. What is not common is the toll they take on state exchequer. Every year, security expenditure of legislators, ex-MLAs, MLCs and former politicians cost the state coffers by one billion rupees.

This was revealed by government itself in 2013. In March 2013, the State Government in an affidavit filed by Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) before Supreme Court confessed that VIP security expenditure in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is Rs 100 crore.

The affidavit also stated that “nearly 4000 PSOs were deployed with protected persons and other individuals, who are found vulnerable to threat in view of the positions held and nature of duties being performed by such individuals.”

The revelation had come in the backdrop of direction issued by Supreme Court of India. Apex court’s needle had shifted towards other states after hearing a civil writ petition titled Abhay Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Others.  While the matter was sub-judice, the court directed all the states to spell out the figure each government has been spending on VIP security and the number of personnel deployed.

Insiders said three battalions of the state police are currently deployed for VIP security in the state. Security distribution is done on the basis of threat perception and assessment of specific threat to functionaries by various security agencies.

The mechanism of security deployment is worked out by a Security Review Coordination Committee (SRCC) that divides VIPs in “categorized and uncategorized protected persons.” According to the official figures, 1680 persons in the state were provided security cover till 31st August, 2013. Among the 1680 VIPs enveloped by security, 541 were categorized and 1139 persons were under the title of uncategorized protected persons.

Sources said the “uncategorized protected persons” mostly enjoy the security benefits on the basis of “political influence and power.” Same happens in the case of categorized as well. Among the “categorized” include Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), EX-MLAs, Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) and former ministers.

Reliable sources told Kashmir Life that in most of the cases politicians and lawmakers use their influence and power to take more than the allotted security. “Figures are more than that. Even after a person is allotted a specific number of security personnel as decided by the committee, they end up with more personnel. As a result, many of the security men are left at the disposal of lawmakers for no job at all. At many instances extra security personnel end up doing household chores and menial jobs at the residences of ministers,” sources said.

NC patron Farooq Abdullah flanked by security guards during a campaign rally near Dal Lake in Srinagar April 28, 2009. Srinagar constituency will go to polls on May 7 during the fourth phase of India's general elections.    REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli    (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR POLITICS ELECTIONS)
NC patron Farooq Abdullah flanked by security guards during 2009 campaign rally in Srinagar.

The security is provided to the VIP or “protected person” himself, his/her family, residence, office, camp office and movement. If the lawmaker has to attend a public gathering or a rally, more personnel are pumped in. In case of his movement from one place to another, additional deployments encircle the politician. Add to this, the security provided to the residence of a lawmaker by the local police station. Sources said these additional deployments, which usually go unlisted, weigh heavily on state’s funds. The trend is likely to pick up with the elections on head, they add.

Of the whopping annual expense bill, apart from the salary and allowances of Personal Security Officers (PSOs) allotted to the “protected persons.” fuel payments form a major part of the bill.

In September 2012, an Right to Information (RTI) application had revealed that the Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand of the state was using 25 official cars instead of two authorized. In reply to the query, it was also revealed that departments falling under the jurisdiction of Tara Chand were faithfully contributing vehicles to him and his office. Pertinently, the departments, supplying vehicles to him, had been experiencing financial crunch.

Government figures might help to understand the cost. For last four years, fuel expenditure on the security of Deputy Chief Minister amounts to more than 50 lakh rupees out of which 13,27,327 rupees are from the previous year.

Dr Manohar Lal Sharma, who is Minister of State for Fisheries and Cooperative in Omar’s 25-member council of ministers, has been the second most expensive for security wing in Jammu & Kashmir for the last year. From January 2013 to January 2014 the expenditure incurred on account of the fuel to minister is more than 10 lakh rupees. Closely following him is the former PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control minister Sham Lal Sharma with an annual expenditure of 9.65 lakh rupees.

Senior National Conference leader and Forest minister Mian Altaf and Social Welfare minister Sakeena Itoo cost the security wing by 9.30 lakh and 8.31 lakh rupees respectively during 2013.

Former Minister for Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution and Transport and advisor to the Chief Minister J&K Qamar Ali Akhoon’s fuel expenditure was lowest at 2.64 lakh rupees.

Fuel expenditure on security of Union Minister and NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah compliment his brief stay in valley during 2013 with a mere figure of just 4159 rupees only.

To run the security cars of PDP patron Mufti Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, the fuel supply cost the government 76,576 rupees in 2013. Senior PDP leader and former finance minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and Javid Mustaffa Mir’s fuel expenditure on security was 2.81 lakh and 5.62 lakh rupees respectively.

The PDP duo is behind Deputy Speaker and MLA Devsar Mohammad Sartaj Madni in fuel expenditure. Petrol and diesel worth 7.63 lakh rupees was bought to run the engines of Madni’s security cavalcade.

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