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Intriguing brass tacks of VIP security

Intriguing brass tacks of VIP security
Highlights

Almost at the end of my service, that is when I was Chief Secretary to the government of Andhra Pradesh, a Personal Security Officer (PSO) was always by my side. When I travelled in the official car, he would use the walkie-talkie to make sure that the road ahead of us was cleared of traffic.

If there is no terrorism externally and no communal tension internally, India would probably stand to save billions of dollars spent now on protecting itself against internal enemies and external foes. So would countries of the world, in terms of the money they would save by having foreign policies that breed no cause for conflict and politicians who need not fear harm from their own people! Especially in the context of the post Covid-19 world, there is need for all nations to realise the importance of living in harmony with each other and working together harmoniously for a world devoid of strife and conflict; free from greed and avarice and full of peace, love and joy. A world whose economy grows sustainably and equitably ensconced in an ambience in which the weaker and the more fragile countries get what they need from those who have the ability to give it

Almost at the end of my service, that is when I was Chief Secretary to the government of Andhra Pradesh, a Personal Security Officer (PSO) was always by my side. When I travelled in the official car, he would use the walkie-talkie to make sure that the road ahead of us was cleared of traffic. To my amusement, I found that the code word by which I was known was "Delta 4 Officer". I have still not worked out the significance of that particular number!

While on the subject of security, I must recall a couple of instances which I have narrated in my book titled 'Trekking Over Pebbles – Life Through A Hyderabadi's Looking Glass'.

Olaf Palme, then the Prime Minister of Sweden, had gone to watch a late night movie when he was shot dead by a terrorist. I know it is a pity that the government of an affluent country thought it fit to expose its head to a risk such as that. On the other hand, it does speak volumes of the simplicity, and self-effacing nature of Palme that he declined the security cover which, undoubtedly, must have been offered to him. On a similar note, I recall the incident when Dr Y Venugopal Reddy (Venu to friends such as yours faithfully), who retired a few years ago as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, was a research scholar at Osmania University when, one day, he went to call on the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh D Sanjeevayya. He found the Chief Minister impatiently walking up and down in his veranda. Upon enquiry, it transpired that the Chief Minister's driver was late and the Assembly session was due to commence shortly. Sanjeevayya gladly accepted Venu's offer for a lift and was driven to the Assembly building. No convoy, no pilot, no escort, no nothing!

Just imagine, the Chief Minister of a State being driven to the Assembly hall by a young research scholar! Those were the days unostentatious and pared to the bone security arrangements. Particularly, when compared to these days, when large armed security details follow VIPs, is supposed to be a status symbol. In this context, I recall how, as Chief Secretary to the government of Andhra Pradesh, I was once travelling to fulfil an official commitment, when I noticed that an unusually large number of cars had revolving lights on the roofs. To the best of my recollection, one was allowed to have a siren blowing, or have a revolving light, only if one was the Governor of a State. And, at the other extreme of the spectrum of eligibility, one had the fire-engines and ambulances. Determined to reign in whatever there was by way of excessive and avoidable use of symbols of authority and status, I consulted the protocol book and issued a circular restricting the use of overhead light on vehicles only to people entitled to that privilege, and that only when they were actually travelling in the vehicle is concerned. I was careful to use the word 'travelling' as I remembered that the driver of my father's car (when father was serving as a Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court), used to neatly wrap up the national flag and tuck it away in a plastic bag whenever father was not actually in the vehicle. Needless to say, the circular caused a minor furore. The Mayor of Vijayawada at that time called me up. "This job has no other perks anyway", she said, "why do you wish to withdraw even this simple pleasure?!" So much, then, for the true value of the so-called security requirements!

Security is undoubtedly essential but needs to be as unobtrusive and inoffensive as possible, though not at the cost of its proving ineffective.

Sanjeevayya needed no security! Just as some countries don't, even today! If there is no terrorism externally and no communal tension internally, India would probably stand to save billions of dollars spent now on protecting itself against internal enemies and external foes. So would countries of the world, in terms of the money they would save by having foreign policies that breed no cause for conflict and politicians who need not fear harm from their own peoples!

Especially in the context of the post Covid-19 world, there is need for all nations to realise the importance of living in harmony with each other and working together harmoniously for a world devoid of strife and conflict; free from greed and avarice and full of peace, love and joy. A world whose economy grows sustainably and equitably ensconced in an ambience in which the weaker and the more fragile countries get what they need from those who have the ability to give it.

A world in, other words, in which the need for personal or national security is no longer relevant, and security services and armed forces will be a thing of the past.

How wonderful it is to imagine a future where cultural events and sports and games can happen without the fear of disruption by terrorist attacks. To contemplate an international arena from which distrust and suspicion have been eliminated. With the focus of the core agenda of the leadership of the comity of nations trained on scourges such as hunger, fear, poverty, disease, squalor and ignorance. And the people of the world will be able to lead their lives with dignity and in comfort.

What we have all just gone through, this was certainly an unprecedented era in the history of mankind. Therefore, to resolve to turn a new leaf and pledge ourselves to enter into such an era would be very much in order.

I have no doubt at all that I speak the voice of the billions of men and women all over the world.

From time to time, I receive quite a few responses and comments from the readers of this column. I always make it a point to share them with

Payam Sudhakaran, who is the member of the editorial staff dealing with my pieces. I thought, purely in a lighter vein, I should share with the readers one comment I received from an anonymous source which said, "Congratulations! The law of averages has finally caught up with you. You actually made an accurate statement in this week's piece!"

(Concluded)

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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