The teenager sang it gleefully, his fingers drumming my table, the twinkle never leaving his eyes and his father, an old patient of mine, nodded with the beat, proud as punch at his son’s rendition.
Ho mantri teri chaal
Tera silly suraksha jaal
Ab main is se zyaada kya kahoon
Main gusse me gaali de gaya
Oye ki kariye, ki kariye
Dil chhalni sadda ho gaya
Oye ki kariye, ki kariye
The father son duo had wandered into the NCR in the wrong season, without enough reason and were caught in a lock down for VVIP movement. Seems the endless sitting in the car, waiting for convoys to pass, had transformed the son into a poet, or at least a rapper. The father boasted that this parody based on Yo Yo Honey Singh’s popular number was conceived as the cavalcade passed. Translated roughly it berates the minister’s movement and his security cover and laments the inconvenience there of.
In India where security is overdone, most of us have been through this and although it doesn’t turn us into poets, it is frustrating nonetheless. To be fair, not every traffic jam is a VVIP’s doing, but whenever a person of eminence decides to move, the accompanying security detail makes a gridlock inevitable. This problem is felt more acutely in the capital where ten percent of the nearly five thousand protected species of our country live.
There is no debating the fact that the country’s high value assets need to be protected. Not only because an inability to do so would raise doubts on our nation’s might but because we are morally bound to protect people threatened because of their job, position or public stance. So depending on the perceived danger security of various kinds is provided to them. It could be the basic solitary gunmen or the very sophisticated Z plus security which involves more than thirty armed personnel, with X,Y and Z levels in between. The problem is that over the years ‘security cover’ has become a way of parading one’s clout and power, a status symbol, granted as a political favour. So gunmen are granted to ‘well connected’ people and in the absence of any real threat they are used to run errands. A gun toting toughie to fetch bread!
Apart from the wastage of trained personnel in a country where there is a dearth of law enforcers, this security cover comes at an exorbitant price. According to a 2012 report of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, ten thousand persons of varying degrees of importance were being protected by over three times the number of security personnel. Also, a recently released report states that two hundred and fifty crore of the taxpayer’s money was spent on it in 2014-15.
What’s more, security men are often high-handed and unnecessarily rude with the general public. In the western world, security cover is discreet and unobtrusive, causing minimum hassle to the common man. In India it’s a nightmare and leaves a trail of harassed people on the roads. Lives and livelihoods are put on stake as even ambulances are made to halt. The Ministry of Home Affairs in reply to an RTI revealed that the traffic can be stopped only for the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and visiting foreign dignitaries with President/ PM level security cover. There is a caveat though, state governments can impose their rules for smooth transit of VIPs and this is what brings traffic to a halt every now and then.
There are no easy solutions for this problem of Raksha- Bandhan, security for a few that ties the rest of us in knots. Providing adequate diversions, issuing timely advisories through social media and creating a VIP corridor on oft used routes are some obvious steps. But the most important one is to downsize the ‘endangered species’. Just like everything else in life, vulnerability is not permanent and the security blanket needs to be withdrawn or cut to size accordingly.
( published in the Tribune on 1/9/2018 as a part of my column ‘So Ordinary’)