We have been seeing security personnel or bodyguards with their guns standing in close proximity to VVIPs either on television, newspaper or a political rally. Often you might have been curious about these gunmen who guard their protectees with their lives and keen vigilance. In this article, we will know about one such security agency that provides hardcore security to the Prime Minister of India. In other words, we will talk about what is SPG and the SPG Act of 1988 that facilitates protection by the SPG personnels. We will also mention about the SPG Amendment Act 2019, PM Security before the SPG Act 1988, Why was the SPG Act 1998 implemented, types of security for VIPs and VVIPs and conclude with a final thought on the matter.
What is SPG?
SPG is the abbreviated form of the Security Protection Group. It is a federal agency of the Government of India and the highest level pf security that provides proximate protection to the Prime Minister of India.
The SPG protects the Prime Minister both in India and abroad including his immediate family members residing in their official residence.
The SPG has different wings such as training, communication, technical, motor transport, administration and workshop to provide hollistic security cover for its protectee. The motto of Security Protection Group is “Bravery, Dedication, Security”.
What is the SPG Act 1988?
The Special Protection Group Act was passed on June 2 1988 that has a set of provisions listed out to ensure “proximate security” to the Prime Minister of India by the SPG or Security Protection Group.
The Central Government shall be directly involved in the group by serving as the general superintendence, direction and control.
The Director of the SPG will be appointed by the Central Government and will hold responsibility for commanding the group and it’s supervision.
The SPG documents and monitors every single moment of the Prime Minister’s itinerary under the ASL or the Advanced Security Liaison.
Apart from the SPG, the Prime Minister will also receive additional protection by the State Police by the securing of the perimeters of his travel.
What is the SPG Amendment Act 2019?
The SPG Amendment Act is revised SPG Act of 1988. It was implemented on 27 November 2019. As per this act, the SPG security will be applicable to the Prime Minister and his immediate family members residing in his designated official residence. The Act also mentions that former Prime Ministers can extend their security period for five years after their prime ministerial tenure has ended, if the Intelligence Bureau assesses grave threat of any kind. Such former leaders of the country along with their family members with be provided SPG security if they collectively stay at their official residence.
Since the current PM Narendra Modi lives in his official residence alone the Act exempts his mother Heeraben Modi and estranged wife Jashodaben Modi from SPG security. However, these members alongwith former PM Manmohan Singh is protected by other grades of security.
PM Security before the SPG Act 1988
From 1947 to 1981, the security of the Prime Minister was in the hands of the Special Security District of the Delhi Police, that was overseen by an officer of the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police. This security system was based on the model of London’s Metropolitan Police Force Service of the UK.
The Intelligence Bureau (IB) of India formed a Special Task Force or Special Group that was entrusted with the responsibility of protection of the Prime Minister during his travels in and out of New Delhi. It provided road or car escorts and transportation security to the PM of India.
In 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of his Sikh security personnel from the Delhi police. This resulted in the change of the security system that was already in place.
Following Indira Gandhi’s death in 1984, a review was conducted by a Committee of Secretaries of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The breach in security was mitigated by shifting the protection responsibility of the PM of India to an exclusive unit under the control of the Special Task Force. These decisions were adopted as temporary or short-term measures.
The Ministry of Home Affairs set up the Birbal Nath Committee to look into the issue and provide recommendations to the government regarding the security of the Prime Minister.
Why was the SPG Act 1998 Implemented?
The breach in security by security personnels of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi led to the formation of the Special Protection Unit and eventually the Special Protection Group. Let us further look at the details about the implementation of the SPG Act 1988:
The Birbal Nath Committee submitted recommendations to the Indian government regarding prime ministerial security. Its recommendation included an independent agency named Special Protection Unit (SPU) that will ensure the security of the Indian Prime Minister. The President of India by executive order created 819 posts on March 30 1985 for the Special Protection Unit within the Cabinet Secretariat.
The Special Protection Unit (SPU) was later changed to Special Protection Group (SPG) that was to be led by a Director who should be an Indian Police Service officer with the rank of IGP (Inspector General of Police).
State Police and the Special Protection Group provided physical security arrangements for the Prime Minister in two-layers. The SPG operated for three years (April 1985-June 1988) devoid of legislation. In 1988 the Indian government under Rajiv Gandhi passed the Special Protection Group Act to codify its provisions.
During that period, the Act was only applicable for the existing prime minister and his immediate family members. When Rajiv Gandhi lost the election and left office, he no longer remained under SPG protection although his life bore considerable threats because of his government’s intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war.
Rajiv Gandhi was eventually assassinated in May 1999 at a rally in Tamil Nadu by a suicide bomber of a Sri Lankan terrorist organisation, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam also known as LTTE. His death necessitated the security of former ministerial positions. As a result, the SPG Act was amended to extend the security to the former Prime Ministers and his immediate family for a period of ten years from the termination of office.
Other Details About SPG
Types of security for VIPs and VVIPs
Security coverage is provided to VIPs, VVIPs, political leaders, high-profile personalities and even celebrities. Protection is granted to them as these men and women are under grave threats by anti-social forces like terrorist organisations. Let us look at some of the different categories of security coverages except the SPG which we already have discussed in detail:
X level security is the 5th level of security that does not have any commandos but consists of two armed police officers as security professionals. This security level is appointed to several people by the Personal Security Officer depending on the threat received.
Y level security is the fourth level of security consisting of two National Security Guard commandos and 8 police personnel and 2 vehicle convoys.
Z level security consists of 4-6 commandos and 22 armed personnel and more than 5 convoys with one atleast bulletproofed. Baba Ramdev and Aamir Khan have Z level security.
The main difference in Z+ security and SPG is that the former is the second highest level of security whereas the latter is the top ranking security in India. Z+ security consists of more than 10 commandos,150 total personnel and over 5 bullet-proof vehicles. Lead politicians like Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Indian National Congress President Rahul Gandhi, actor Salman Khan etc has been assigned with Z+ security.
The Security Protection Group Act came into being at a terrible loss. Security breaches were made because of the loopholes in the security system in India. Rajiv Gandhi’s death highlighted the fact that even former ministers are prone to danger and need to be protected. Several times, security officers made attempts to inform Rajiv Gandhi of the grave danger that might be impending upon him but his demand for SPG protection was largely criticized and humiliated. With the right intervention, precious lives could have been saved.