Former PM Manmohan Singh’s security has been downgraded from protection by the elite Special Protection Group. The government says the security cover for leaders is periodically reviewed from the threat perception angle, and the security category is revised accordingly. Known as a reticent PM, Dr Singh might be the last person to protest against such a move, but the Congress Party has done so. There is reason to believe that the downgrading of his security cover, with protection to be provided by the CRPF, was a politically-motivated decision. Considering the background and the threat the former PM could face even from elements supporting “Khalistan” as a separate Sikh state, it would have been in the fitness of things if his security cover wasn’t revised this way.
It may ill suit a country that lost Mahatma Gandhi and two Prime Ministers, one while in office, to slacken in protecting a two-term former PM. While the severest security cover couldn't have prevented the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi as the bullets came from the rifles of her own security guards in a place as secure as her residence, it stands to reason that no chances should be taken with the life of anyone who has served as Prime Minister. They are invariably seen as a high symbol of the State and thus a target of malcontents as well as militants/terrorists, who try to make their dreadful point of opposition to the State in a spectacular way to shake the nation.
If it were to be left to him, Dr Manmohan Singh would probably wish not to have any cloistering close protection in his rare public appearances. The same may have been the case with Rajiv Gandhi who, on the campaign trail as a former Prime Minister, was known to ignore security protocols. Again, it would have taken more than the tightest security to stop a motivated terror group like the LTTE, which carried out an unprecedented employment of a belt bomber, a concept till then only thought of by fiction writer Frederick Forsyth. The point is that anyone who has served as chief executive of a diverse nation is bound to have taken some decision to the annoyance of the disgruntled and he must be protected through his entire lifetime.
Protection by the dedicated SPG created after the death of Mrs Indira Gandhi is of a higher level, and none of the other forces envisaged as alternates are perceived to be as thorough in close protection cover. Those who must be downgraded are the politicians who have wangled security cover for themselves through political influence, only to flaunt it as a status symbol. And two former PMs, three members of the Gandhi-Nehru family, the Prime Minister and the home minister do not represent such a huge number as for a nation to crimp on security requirements. We must stop playing politics in these matters.