Hyderabad: Clad in safari suits and armed with semi-automatic weapons, these men shadow and protect VIPs from being targeted by terrorists and whatnot. They are trained to repulse an attack, secure the VIP and ensure his safety at any cost, even if it means laying down their own lives.
But now, with the coronavirus scare, the personal security officers (PSOs) or gunmen, as they are often referred to, of the VIPs appear to have turned into ‘'threats’' for those they protect.
So terrified is everyone of contracting Covid-19, that ‘social distancing’ has extended even to employees. VIPs are now either travelling without their protectors or making them travel in escort vehicles, or keeping a safe distance from them.
Highly placed sources told Deccan Chronicle that after the coronavirus scare and the subsequent lockdown, the Telangana police top brass passed on the do's and don'ts to the chiefs of the Intelligence Security Wing (ISW) and the City Security Wing (CSW) — both of which cater to VIP security in the state. Accordingly, the PSOs in both agencies, right from those who secure chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his Cabinet to the MLAs, senior IPS officers and others, were asked to follow all the precautions strictly.
But the precautions did little to comfort the panic-stricken VIPs. While many of them prefer to travel without gunmen and have asked them to simply stay put outside their offices and residences, those with escort vehicles are ordering the gunmen to travel in the escort vehicles and not with them. “Now is not the time when terrorists or Maoists could strike as they are themselves scared of Corona. At this moment, both PSOs and VIPs are a threat to each other,” said a senior IPS officer, who admitted that he too is travelling sans his security personnel. At the moment, it is better to travel with less number of people in the car, he said.
But the PSOs, who have no say in the matter, say that the threat is from both sides. “If the threat is physical, we can go to any extent to thwart it. But in the present circumstances, there is nothing we can do if the virus infects the VIP. We are just whiling away time outside the residence or offices of the VIPs. At this moment, both security personnel and VIPs are a threat to each other,” said a PSO attached to a government official.
Depending on the threat perception, a VIP travels along with two gunmen and a driver or only one gunman and a driver. Not all have escort vehicles and those who have, are ensuring that their gunmen travel in the escort vehicle and not with them.
Usually security personnel carry the files, documents and briefcases of the VIP. But even that has stopped due to the fear that they may infect the files. “Coronavirus is the biggest threat now and I am travelling without my PSO for both personal and official work. Why take the risk when you can avoid it?” a senior government official told us. He said the security personnel too are wary of getting infected.
The security detail has often been misused by the VIPs who make them run errands and do household chores. But now, all of that has stopped too as the gunmen, along with cooks, gardeners and other domestic help are not allowed inside their homes or offices and these menial chores are done in-house as it were....