Reviewing the Yellow Book

The approach to VIP security must shift from the numerical to the qualitative

We often hear voices of protest about the public inconvenience caused by the extensive security cover for those who enjoy state protection. Last month, eminent jurist Harish Salve urged the Supreme Court to intervene to reduce the inconvenience caused by VIP motorcades, which hold up traffic. Public anger surged again after the gangrape of a 23-year-old in a moving bus in Delhi. The refrain was that security for politicians and bureaucrats had eaten into meagre police resources, at the cost of basic policing.

Let's look at the genesis of the problem. The assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 was a watershed for the VIP security systems in our country. The archaic "Blue Book" containing rules and guidelines for the protection of the prime minister was found wanting, especially given the heightened threat perception from various terrorist groups at the time. Rattled by the assassination, the country's security establishment went into overdrive. Thus was born the Special Protection Group (SPG), more or less replicating the US Secret Service. The threat from terrorists extended to all those who had played a role in fighting them. Therefore, the need was felt to protect them too. This gave birth to the X, Y, Z categories ( Z+ was added later) of protected persons. The guidelines were compiled in a booklet and issued by the ministry of home affairs to all state governments and police forces. This came to be called the "Yellow Book". It also spelt out the philosophy behind providing security to certain individuals who faced a threat from terrorists, either by virtue of the office they held or by their involvement in the state's counter-terrorism operations.

Over the years, the system of providing security to individuals by the police degenerated, more in the states than at the Centre, into the distribution of political patronage by chief ministers, who more often than not, also held the home portfolios. The abuse of this system has reached such depths in certain states that personal security officers (PSOs) are known to have committed crimes like kidnapping and extortion at the behest of their protectees. The recent double murder of the Chadha brothers in a farm house in the capital bears testimony to this ugly phenomenon.

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