The serious breach of security that resulted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi being stranded on a flyover for over 20 minutes in Punjab on Wednesday, raises several important questions. The lapse should be probed thoroughly and those responsible should be held accountable. However, this important matter should not be trivialised in any manner and political parties must refrain from giving it a twist to present a distorted picture.
The Apex Court is seized of the matter and has ordered all records pertaining to the PM visit to be preserved while putting on hold, separate inquiries ordered by the Centre and Punjab government. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi while expressing his deep concern, has claimed that at no point of time was there any kind of attempt on the life of the Prime Minister and therefore this kind of narrative should be stopped immediately.
The BJP and its supporters have launched a series of attacks on both the Punjab government and the Congress; several prayer meetings were held in various parts of the country for wishing Modi a long life. The President and the Vice President also expressed their anguish at the lapse.
Unfortunately, certain people have taken to Twitter and other social media platforms to threaten the Sikhs, reminding them that the 1984 type genocide could become a reality. The attempt is to obviously, create a climate of distrust between various communities and while the focus of this divisive tactics is on Punjab, it could resonate in Uttar Pradesh as well as other poll bound states.
From the BJP’s perspective, it is an issue which concerns both national security and posed a threat to the life of the Prime Minister, so close to our border with Pakistan. From the Congress viewpoint, the entire incident was blown out of proportion to take the attention away from the dismal attendance at the BJP’s Ferozepur rally where only 700 people turned up while 70,000 chairs had been placed.
There are several dimensions that need to be properly looked into in order to understand at what level the security lapse took place. The Prime Minister is the most closely protected person in the country and rightly so. His security arrangements are looked after by the Special Protection Group, an elite force of commandoes and experts drawn from various police organisations and defence forces.
Apart from providing proximate protection to the VVIP, the SPG as per its Act and mandate, has overriding powers over any other agency regarding the security concerns of the protectee. In other words, it can overrule even the Prime Minister, if it has any kind of apprehensions.
In the present case, it is evident that the decision to travel for two hours on road from the Bhatinda airport to the Hussainiwala border in an area which has been witnessing farmers’ agitation, must have been taken by the SPG. The senior functionaries of this outfit must have been adequately briefed of the ground situation even by the Punjab Police, the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies.
There is no denying that if the final decision was taken to proceed towards Ferozepur by road, the Punjab Police should have ensured that route was completely sanitised and obstructions, if any, were removed well on time. It was equally important that an SPG team should have left on the route, ahead of the Prime Minister to see for itself the situation. In these days where technology is widely used, drones should have been deployed to monitor the route. A lot of issues must have been flagged by various organisations connected with this particular trip during the Advance Security Liaison (ASL), prior to the visit.
The inquiry, whenever it is conducted, should take several factors into account. Before the Prime Minister embarked on his flight from New Delhi for Bhatinda, it would have been known as to what kind of weather was there at the destination and whether a helicopter could fly for the onward journey keeping in view the conditions.
The Punjab Chief Minister has claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office had been made aware of both the inclement weather and the farmers protesting at several parts in the state. Therefore, the advice that had been given was to abort the trip. In addition, the Intelligence Bureau, which was monitoring the situation very closely must have similarly provided its inputs to the SPG as well as senior functionaries of the government concerned with security.
Thus, since there were enough pointers which were not favourable, why did the SPG decide to take the Prime Minister by road on such a long drive thus exposing him to danger? Any road journey involving the Prime Minister is always a matter of immense concern for the security agencies and this should have been disallowed in the first place itself.
Questions are being asked as to how the farmers got to know of the VVIP cavalcade. When hundreds of policemen are deployed in advance on a route, it is not difficult to ascertain as to who is going to travel. Evicting the farmers by using force, would have contributed to the existing social unrest in the border state, which could have worsened the situation.
There have been several experts who believe that the security lapse had some striking similarities with what happened during the Republic Day at the Red Fort last year. However, the Prime Minister’s security is paramount and cannot be compromised in any manner. Between us.