January 12, 2022
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss PM Modi’s security breach in Punjab. We also look into the possibility of a Universal Basic Income in Tamil Nadu, and a river blockage due to the Marine Drive of Patna, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Who is to blame for PM Modi’s security breach in Punjab?
Have you ever been caught in traffic because a VIP motorcade passed through your route? If the answer is yes, then you have probably seen just how large the security presence is, the number of vehicles, etc. There is a theatricality to it.
For any head of state, it should come as no surprise that every move is planned to the second. Even if the “principal” (that’s what a VIP is sometimes referred to) is inside the vehicle, all precautions are taken to minimise threats. The recent security breach that forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel a planned rally in Punjab has set off a political firestorm. Was it a failure of the Punjab government, or did the Prime Minister’s security detail drop the ball?
What happened on that day? PM Modi was en route to Ferozepur to speak at an election rally. Then, suddenly, the rally was cancelled. Confusion followed. At the rally location, Union Minister Masukh Mandaviya announced the news. Then, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a statement citing a security breach in Modi’s convoy.
Due to poor weather, the schedule of PM’s convoy changed to accommodate travelling by road. He was 30 km from the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, on a flyover. However, the road was blocked by some protestors. After being stuck there for 15-20 minutes, the motorcade turned back and returned to Bathinda airport.
The incident has now transformed into a predictable political blame game. There is a possibility that the actual issue at hand might get lost in the partisan war of words. As columnist Tavleen Singh wrote, an important institution, the Office of the Prime Minister of India, was breached. Partisan politics shouldn’t be front and centre on national security.
World over, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and other heads of state have a significant security presence 24×7. The most notable perhaps is the United States Secret Service that travels with Presidents and their families. The Indian version of that is the Special Protection Group (SPG). The people in the Prime Minister’s immediate vicinity are SPG personnel. The need for a separate group came in the wake of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.
Planning the Prime Minister’s security is no easy task. It involves central agencies and state security forces. The guidelines are outlined in what is called the “Blue Book”. 72 hours before a planned visit, the SPG conducts a mandatory Advance Security Liaison (ASL) with the concerned security officials – state police, Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials, and district magistrates. Details regarding transportation, itinerary, venues, etc., are discussed.
Given this level of preparation, there are backup plans drawn up. The SPG account for any eventuality. Everything from bad weather to unexpected threats, alternate arrangements are made. On some occasions, the Prime Minister might need to interact and get close to large crowds. In this case, an SP-level officer is in charge of placing men in plain clothes for security.
All this doesn’t come cheap. It was recently revealed that the cost to protect the Prime Minister is about ₹1.62 crores a day. Since the SPG’s formation, its budget allocation has increased over time. Since Modi came to power, its budget has almost doubled. For 2020-21, its budget allocation is ₹592 crores.
Lapses by the state government and police on the ground
When the Prime Minister travels to a state, it is the responsibility of that state’s police force to clear routes and minimise threats on the ground. After all, they would know the lay of the land best. The SPG doesn’t allow the PM’s convoy to move unless they get the green signal from local police. In this case, a fair question to ask is why didn’t the police know about local protestors. They were farmers and have been in the news for over a year.
No one should’ve been given access to the Prime Minister’s route unless they were cleared by the SPG and local police. There’s also the additional risk that the town Modi was visiting was about 10km from the Pakistan border. BJP national president JP Nadda criticised the Congress-led Punjab government for the lapse. Amit Shah weighed in as well. The incident invited condemnation from the UK-based British Sikh Association, citing Modi’s good work for the people and state.
The Punjab government’s defence of a change in travel plans doesn’t hold up. An internal document obtained by Aaj Tak/India Today shed light on what they knew. It showed that the police were aware of the change in plans and police officers were in place along the entire route. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a show-cause notice to six officers, including the Bathinda police chief.
The state government’s role in this warrants scrutiny. The Punjab police chief must give an account of how the route was cleared, which clearly wasn’t done diligently. As BJP National Media in-charge Anil Baluni wrote, Congress, of all parties, should know the importance of protecting the Prime Minister of India, given past events.
BJP playing politics on national security while SPG falters
Accusing a national political party and state government of deliberately putting the Indian Prime Minister’s life at risk is a serious charge. In this case, there is no official evidence of a conspiracy.
There were reports that Modi remarked upon his return to Bathinda airport to thank the CM that he returned alive. The depiction gained from this is dishonest, and resulting comments from the party leadership speak poorly of Modi, as Jagdish Rattanani wrote. While there was a breach and an investigation is warranted, there was no serious threat to the Prime Minister’s life.
The Punjab government submitted a report on the incident to the MHA. It detailed how extra manpower was in place in the state in the wake of the farm law protests. The state said the protests were spontaneous in this case. Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said the blame should be on the BJP for their rally being poorly attended. He was quoted as saying that only 700 people turned up.
The protestors belonged to a group called Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari). They had initially wanted to protest in front of the deputy commissioner’s office in Ferozepur. But the police did not allow them, after which they protested on the road. When the protestors were informed by the Ferozepur SSP about the PM’s motorcade passing through the route, they thought the cops were lying just to disperse them. The organization officially stated that they did not intentionally block the PM’s convoy, as they thought the PM would travel by air and not through the road.
The Supreme Court questioned the issuance of show-cause notices to the police officers. It came after the Punjab government pointed it out despite the court ordering a stay on ongoing parallel investigations. The advocate general of Punjab D S Patwalia said any central panel would not be fair in their assessment of the incident. An independent panel would be the best option to get to the truth. As Praveen Swami wrote, this incident shows that the SPG lacks the necessary situational awareness as they are the ultimate protectors of the Prime Minister per law.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The SPG is at fault for the security lapse during PM Modi’s visit to Punjab.
b) The state government and local police are at fault for the security lapse.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
The ‘Upper Castes’ Need A Mindset Conversion
For the Left:
Why More Women Vote BJP
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Universal basic income (Tamil Nadu) – Arvind Subramanian, a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the CM, recently stated that he was in favour of a universal basic income scheme in the state. He said that this would “complete Tamil Nadu’s social safety net project” and eventually let people realise their potential. In a practical sense, he said that a quasi-universal basic income model would work the best as it would exclude the rich and only focus on those in need.
Why it matters: The concept of a universal basic income has been well debated and discussed while rarely implemented. However, a conditional cash transfer program named Bolsa Familia in Brazil has seen some success. The program targeted poor families that prioritised children’s education and health, and transferred cash equivalent of US$35 (or ₹2500) directly to their bank accounts each month. This program, which was started in 2003, was responsible for raising millions out of poverty in Brazil. Such a program, if rightly implemented, could work in India as well.
For the farmers! (Mizoram) – The main opposition in the state, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), has asked the government to ensure that the farmers in the Aitlang area actually get to reap their harvest. The ZPM also alleged that areca nut farmers of the Kolasib district were kept from harvesting their crops by the Assam Police. This must not be repeated in Aitlang.
Why it matters: Due to a long-standing boundary dispute, the Assam and Mizoram Police have set up camps facing each other by the borders. This makes it increasingly difficult for farmers to harvest their crops as their land happens to fall in “disputed territory”. Farmers are now in need of “state security” just to harvest their crops.
New case deadlines (Haryana) – On Monday, Home Minister Anil Vij fixed proper deadlines for “disposing of criminal cases”. From now on, if a case is left pending for more than 10 days, the Station House Officer will be held accountable for it. In case of 20 days, the Deputy Superintendent of Police will be in charge. 30 and it would go to the Assistant Superintendent, and more than 45 days would bring it to the Superintendent of Police. Finally, if more than 60 days are spent on a case, the Inspector General or the Commissioner of Police will be held accountable for the same.
Why it matters: The effort to reduce pending criminal cases in the state has been ongoing for a couple of years now. As early as January 2020, Home Minister Anil Vij had asked for the speedy resolution of pending cases after coming to know that 29,387 criminal cases were pending in police stations across the state. At that time, the SHO or the investigation officer had to only share an explanation for the pendency. But the fixing of deadlines for investigations this time around is seen as a welcome move.
Blocks in the Ganga (Bihar) – A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar, of the Patna High Court, has “expressed concern” over an apparent block in the flow of the River Ganga. The obstruction has been caused by the construction of the Ganga Path, also known as the Ganga driveway. The bench has registered a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suo motu, or ‘on its own accord’, to look into the matter.
Why it matters: Any obstruction to any river is rather concerning as the naturally flowing water bodies greatly affect our ecosystem. Any change to its course can cause droughts in some areas while flooding others. Sure, the 21.5 km-long Ganga driveway (dubbed as the Marine Drive of Patna) is expected to decongest Patna and ease traffic between the eastern and western parts of the city. But serious obstructions could gravely affect the major river.
Call for the wild (Gujarat) – The state’s forest department just launched a “state-wide helpline number” to get the public involved in wildlife conservation. Along with this, the helpline also gives people links to apply for “cattle-death compensation”. Yet, officials have made it clear that “this helpline is only meant for issues related to wild animals and not for pets or stray animals.” For birds and strays, the already available Karuna Animal Helpline is supposed to be used.
Why it matters: Given Gujarat’s vast variety of rare animals, including the Asiatic lions, wildlife-related crimes run rather high in the state. Between 2018 and 2020, more than 1200 wild animals and birds were hunted or poached in the state. Wildlife belonging to 69 protected species were poached, including Asiatic lions and leopards. While the pandemic has considerably curbed such criminal activity, opening such initiatives up to the public is more than welcome.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
8.1% – In the year 2020-21, ethanol blending in petrol has reached 8.1%. This is a significant increase from the previous year’s 5%. Seeing that the government has been trying to push the use of biofuels to wean us off our dependence on oil imports, this is definitely a welcome change.