New Delhi: As the Supreme Court engages in controversy surrounding Prime Minister Modi’s alleged security breach in the Punjab, and sparks spring between the Union and state governments, many in the security establishment are wondering why other breaches of the Prime Minister’s security protocol – mainly involving the current incumbent president – never attracted the same political or media attention
Former SPG members say it’s Narendra Modi who likes to take the lead, often ignoring the advice of his security guards. The one example they consistently cite is when he insisted on flying in a single-engine seaplane with a foreign pilot who had no safety clearance – a strict no-no according to the Special Protection Group blue book.
Refused to authorize a road show during the 2017 legislative elections, the Prime Minister decided to travel by seaplane from the edge of the Sabarmati river to the Dharoi dam in the Mehsana district. At the time and thereafter, officials, both retired and on duty, had no explanation as to how and why Modi was allowed to fly in a single-engine aircraft.
However, no head fell after the seaplane episode. The reason, explains a former Union Home Secretary, is that “violations of the Blue Book are generally at the behest of the VVIP and they occur on a monthly basis. These violations are brought to the attention of the PMO and the PM by the SPG and left there. “
The SPG security bible – which takes its name from the light cobalt blue color of its cover – is a 200-page set of instructions and appendices with all the details of the Prime Minister’s security. Last updated 18 years ago, a new project is awaiting approval from the Ministry of the Interior. In line with the changing times, the updated Blue Book will also incorporate changes to the Prime Minister’s security following the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008.
There were also times when the SPG was forced to give up in the face of the Prime Minister’s demands. During a special visit abroad he made during the first year of his tenure as Prime Minister – Thread withholding the country’s name to protect his sources – Modi decided he wanted to stop his convoy and mingle with the crowd. However, intelligence agencies had already picked up chatter indicating that there could be an attempted assassination of the prime minister “up close” and that the danger was “clear and present”. When Modi said he wanted to get out, the leader of the outreach team traveling in the prime minister’s car insisted on consulting the head of the SPG who was in the car behind. The instructions of the head of the SPG were clear: under no circumstances should the convoy make an unscheduled stop. If this order was not followed, the officer would be immediately removed from his post for disobeying government orders. The convoy continued. It was the head of the SPG who then faced the music.
It was not only the SPG that was forced to push back on Modi’s demands. In 2015, during a visit to Germany, Modi insisted on visiting the Berlin station. He said he wanted to study how a modern rail terminal works. Given the frequentation and the public nature of the station, German security rejected the request, saying it would be impossible for them to disinfect such a place. Despite this, the Prime Minister did as he wanted and undertook the visit, posing a huge challenge to the SPG.
Security personnel also say that the prime minister’s penchant for changing the security exercise has at times extended to visiting dignitaries as well. In 2017, Japanese security were dismayed when they learned that their prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was expected to travel in an open jeep during a visit to the Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat. In the end, the Japanese side nodded and Abe traveled alongside Modi in an open Gypsy adorned with marigold. The Japanese Prime Minister in Indian attire completed the desired photoshoot.
But there have been cases where the security provisions of Modi’s predecessors have also been found to be flawed. In 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s forward security liaison was leaked ahead of his visit to Thailand because the communication was sent over an unsecured line. This breach was brought to light by the NTRO during a cyber audit by the SPG. This reporter saw the letter written by the NTRO to the SPG.
Punjab autopsy will reveal deviations from blue book
While Prime Minister Modi’s motorcade has already been stranded – in Noida and Delhi – without generating hype about a threat to his life, an autopsy of the Punjab incident is needed to fill systemic gaps and ensure that it is not repeated anywhere else in the country, experts say.
Former CIC DP Sinha, who, as an Intelligence Bureau official, had attended advanced security liaison meetings across the country for the past three decades, said: “Everything is described in the blue book . And if there has been a security breach, the liability must also be determined according to the blue book. When it is the Prime Minister we are talking about, nothing is left to chance. ”
But there is much more in the Blue Book for which the Union government and the state government must answer.
For example, in accordance with the Advanced Safety Liaison (ASL), was information from the weather service not gathered on the possibility of rain? If the weather turned unfavorable and a helicopter ride to the site was not possible, was the emergency route not decided in accordance with the ASL? Was this emergency route the one the PM took?
Did the SPG really allow the Prime Minister to travel on an unsanitized route for two hours without security clearance? According to the blue book, the SPG does not move until the relevant state police give the green light for the entire route to be disinfected.
Before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tried to lay the blame on the doorstep of the state. “Whenever the Prime Minister’s cavalcade moves on the road, it is always the DG of the State who is consulted and it is only with his sanction that it proceeds.” Mehta says that “DG gave the green signal. He didn’t say there was a blockade. If so, then the DGP should respond. And, in turn, his subordinates too, who would have handled specific stretches.
But the Prime Minister’s cavalcade includes a warning car and a pilot car. Wouldn’t the first car have noticed a crowd and sent a message immediately? Why, then, did the cavalcade stop so close to the site of the blockade, with the traffic jam caused by the demonstrators within sight? If he apprehended a threat, shouldn’t the SPG have immediately turned around to put some distance between the cavalcade and the traffic jams ahead, instead of waiting 20 minutes?
Mehta admitted in court that the warning car was about 500-700 meters in front of the convoy, but did not tell the court whether the convoy had been alerted by the driver. Instead, he said: “the procession only learned when he was on the bridge.” And then he blamed the waiting police officers who he said were enjoying the tea. “They didn’t alert the car warning that there was a blockade!”
It is also not known why civilians had gathered in such large numbers on either side of the roadway. The four-lane forked highway had only one carriageway closed to traffic while the other had motorists and BJP flag bearers shouting slogans. According to a former IB official, “Traffic is permitted on the opposite side depending on the perceived threat, proximity to the border and the density of traffic. Only the ASL will clearly state what has been decided, but normally in a border state both carriageways should be stopped. Here, it seems, one side has been left open to allow BJP supporters to reach the site of the rally planned by the Prime Minister.
But once the convoy turned around and started rolling on the wrong side of the road, traffic on the route should have been stopped by state police until the convoy reached the correct one. pavement, which was not done. “This whole fiasco is unprecedented,” say the experts.