The Union government has decided to move the Nehru-Gandhi family from the Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover to Z+ protection provided by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). According to Home Ministry sources, SPG security of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra will be removed but they will still be given Z+ security.
The central government has taken this decision based on the input of all intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. According to the information received from sources close to the Nehru-Gandhi family, they have not yet received its information.
Recently, the security of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was removed by the Union Government. Now, in the whole country, only Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys the SPG security shield.
The SPG was set up in 1985 to protect the prime minister of the country after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her security guards. After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the SPG Act was amended and a provision was made to provide SPG protection to the former prime minister’s family for the next 10 years.
This Act was amended under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in the year 2003 and that 10-year limit was reduced to a year. Along with this, a provision was made that, keeping in mind the potential dangers the Nehru-Gandhi family faces, the central government would fix the safety deadline.
SPG vs Z+: Difference lies in number of agencies involved
The Indian SPG is “an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and former Prime Ministers of India and members of their immediate families wherever in the world they are.” Creation of the SPG required an elaborate exercise in order to clearly delineate responsibility of various agencies concerned with the security of the Prime Minister. The provisions contained in the Blue Book, which lays down security guidelines for the protection of the prime minister, had to be harmoniously blended with this new concept of proximate security.
IB and the State or Union Territory Police concerned are responsible for coordination, collection and dissemination of intelligence affecting VIP security. The police and the SPG are responsible for providing physical security arrangements for the prime minister while the IB provides the required intelligence inputs to these operational agencies. The SPG functioned as a security group purely on the strength of an executive order for three years without legislation: from April 1985 to June 1988.
The “general superintendence, direction and control” of the SPG is exercised by the Central Government. The head of the force, called a Director, designated as Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for “the command and supervision” of the force. The director of the SPG since its inception has been an officer from the Indian Police Service. Personnel of the Special Protection Group are drawn from Central Armed Police Forces and Railway Protection Force, but the officers are from the IPS or officers of the RPF.
On the other hand, the Z+ level of security is provided by the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos. They are armed with Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and modern communication equipment, and each member of the team is adept in martial arts and unarmed combat skills. Currently, 17 VIPs are provided with such protection. The ‘Z’ category entails security cover by the Delhi police or the ITBP or CRPF personnel and one escort car. The ‘Y’ category encompasses two personal security officers (PSOs) and the ‘X’ category, one PSO.
The Z+ category has a security cover of 55 personnel: 10+ NSG commandos and the rest police personnel.
With inputs from The Gazette of India, The Times of India and Hindustan Times