From Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Badal's son-in-law and cabinet minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, Sukhbir Badal's brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia to Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, no one trusts Punjab Police for the innermost security ring around them.
All these biggies have one or more sections (6-8 security personnel with sophisticated weapons) of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) around them for their innermost security.
While Badal senior has 10 sections around him, Sukhbir Badal and Kairon have four each and Majithia and Saini have one each.
No doubt the Badal father-son duo and the DGP have been high on the target list of terrorists and enjoy Z-plus category security, but that is hardly any solace for Punjab Police. The state police personnel are around the VIPs, but it is the CRPF which dominates.
What is most embarrassing for Punjab Police is the fact that even the headquarters of the force, located in Chandigarh's Sector 9, is guarded round-the-clock by three sections of the CRPF along with its own personnel.
Punjab Congress president and Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa said: "The Punjab government and its police chief have little trust in its own police when it comes to providing security and maintaining vigil. The Who's Who of the Punjab government and the state police have made it clear that their lives are more precious than those of its citizens, and its police force lacks capacity and capability to protect people."
Bajwa alleged that the Punjab government had "kept the CRPF for protecting itself and Punjab Police for wreaking vengeance on its political rivals".
The ruling Akali Dal chided Bajwa for his remarks. A party spokesman said that Bajwa had no understanding about protection given to Z-plus category protectees.
Punjab Police have drawn flak in recent months for assaulting a young woman in Tarn Taran in full public view, driving a teenaged rape victim to suicide by harassing her in Patiala district and not protecting its own officers. An assistant sub-inspector in uniform was shot dead in Amritsar for protecting his daughter from a group of louts.
Embarrassed by the fact that top functionaries were being secured by the CRPF, Punjab Police have gone into damage control mode by saying: "It is learnt that an issue is being made out of central forces being deployed for the protection of senior functionaries of the Punjab government. Since the matter involves the prestige and morale of the police and security forces, it is important to set the record straight on the matter. Security forces often work together in close coordination in a cohesive manner in fulfilment of a common objective, whether it is protection of highly threatened individuals or any other facet of internal security duties such as operations against militants and insurgents."
"Punjab has a particularly long tradition of various central and state security forces working together, and they have numerous success stories to their credit during the disturbed decade of the eighties and early nineties. When different forces work together, they are able to draw on their varied skills and experience and share best practice to achieve a common goal," a police spokesman said.
As happens in such cases, the truth lies somewhere in between.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 29-03-2013)