VIP protection compromises public safety | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 25.04.2013
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VIP protection compromises public safety

Public anger over the lavish security provided to Indian politicians and VIPs mounts as sexual violence against women has worsened in recent months.

For the last four months, Pratima Kaul, a housewife who lives in the sprawling New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, has been sending her driver to pick up her teenage daughter, Gauri, from class every evening.

Since the horrific gang rape of a medical student in December last year and numerous attacks on women and children in the ensuing months, hundreds of parents like Pratima are taking extra precautions to see their respective wards get to school and get back home safely.

Police try to stop supporters of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as they march towards the residence of the chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi during a protest rally in New Delhi April 21, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

The rape and torture of a five-year-old girl sparked public outrage

"I have little faith in public transport. There is little or no security and police personnel are hardly present in crowded areas and universities," Kaul told DW.

At the expense of ordinary citizens

The facts speak for themselves. According to the government's own admission, of the over 83,000 police personnel in the nation's capital - home to the largest police force - only 30 percent have been assigned to general policing. The rest are reserved for personal security details of VIPs and the political class.

The issue of public safety and better policing in Delhi and other metropolitan cities has found huge traction with even the Supreme Court directing the government to provide security to the public - the kind that takes precedence over VIP security.

In its last hearing, the court took serious note of the fact that several state governments had not filed affidavits responding to its queries on issues relating to the protection of people at the cost of the state exchequer and has set a fresh deadline for governments.

Deploy police to keep cities safe

In India, security details are provided to high-risk individuals by the police and local government. There are four different high-risk categories, Z+ being the highest, followed by Z, Y and X.

The presidential limousine carrying U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama drives past a cordon of honor guards on horses as they arrive for the official welcome ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Top-raking politicians, whether domestic or foreign, are guaranteed the best protection

Individuals under the highest security cover include current and former Supreme Court and high court judges, cabinet ministers, governors, chief and deputy chief ministers, leading politicians, and senior bureaucrats.

According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development, there are currently 50,059 security personnel involved in providing security to 16,788 VIPs across the country.

Security guards, particularly the elite Black Cat commandos, have become prized status symbols among them, whose rank determines the size of the security group employed for their protection.

This has caused outrage in a society where women especially have to fear for their safety.

"What do politicians know of traveling in buses and walking home late in the night on desolate streets? They are cocooned from the reality that most people face. They whiz by in their bullet-proof cars with huge security detail," Nandita Pal, a lecturer, told DW.

Not enough to go around

Former police chief S. B. Deol blames the concentrated attention on VIPs for the lack of protection for normal citizens. "Obviously, the increase in the protected persons' protection deployment is to be blamed for our cities being under-policed. This has to change otherwise anger will boil over if more crime occurs as it is happening now," told DW.

Indian women security personal on duty as members of Bhartya Janta Party (BJP) women wing ( unseen) protest condemning a recent act of alleged gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a city bus as they participate in a demonstration in New Delhi, India, 19 December 2012. (Photo: EPA/HARISH TYAGI)

Experts say there are not enough police to secure the streets

Security officials also feel there must be massive police reform in cities and the rural hinterland to secure the country.

"Vacancies in police jobs need to be desperately filled. There is a deficiency of over 400,000 police personnel across the country," security expert Ajay Sahni told DW.

Currently, there are a mere 142 policemen to every 100,000 people.

However, the overall mood is there is a crying need to reassess the type of VIPs who enjoy heavy security at state expense. And as countrywide protests over lack of safety for women have demonstrated in the past few months, the need becomes more pressing.

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