The Central Government has amended its directions to Special Protection Group (SPG) in a move that is being seen as an explicit attempt to streamline and track the Gandhi family's foreign visits. The new directives, reportedly, has made it mandatory for the SPG personnel to accompany them at all times.
The elite Special Protection Group (SPG) currently guards Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
According to The Sunday Guardian, the Gandhis have been informed that it would be mandatory for the SPG personnel to accompany them at all times, even during their foreign visits. "In case this was not acceptable to them, there could be curtailment on their foreign visits on account of security considerations," the weekly reported.
The precedent till now was that the SPG would drop members of the Gandhi family till the airport tarmac for their personal visits. And from thereon, it was the responsibility of the various Indian Missions to coordinate with the local police to ensure their security on a case to case basis. Only minutes before their arrival in India was the SPG informed that they can go pick up the protectee from the airport.
The new guidelines also make it mandatory for the Gandhi family to submit all details related to their travel. They have been asked to supply information of their past few tours as well, The Sunday Guardian reported.
In 2017, the issue of the exposure that the Gandhis were risking was flagged by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the SPG. Again, a reminder was sent sometime in early 2018 seeking to change the precedent of persons having a high level of threat travelling privately with secretive arrangements. The matter hit headlines when Rahul's car was attacked by stone pelters in Gujarat in 2017 during the poll campaign. When the issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by the Congress party, then home minister Rajnath Singh accused the former Congress president of risking his own security.
Singh said in the past two years, Rahul had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours. He did not use the bulletproof car on 100 occasions. The offices of the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi were informed of the violations. Rahul went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for it to provide proper security, the Minister said.
"We want to know why didn't Rahul Gandhi take SPG cover on several foreign trips? What is he trying to hide?" Singh said.
The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, with the intention of providing security to the prime minister, former prime ministers and their immediate family members. The Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988. In 1989, the VP Singh government had withdrawn the SPG protection given to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. But after his assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended, offering SPG protection to all former prime ministers and their families for a period of at least 10 years. The law was again amended in 2002 to make provision for an annual review as the costs associated with SPG cover were ballooning.
Recently, the government has withdrawn the SPG cover for former prime minister Manmohan Singh after a threat review. However, the former prime minister remains a Z plus security protectee.
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Updated Date: Oct 07, 2019 15:23:39 IST