New Delhi: The Special Protection Group (SPG) has ordered a mega repatriation of over 200 personnel to their respective security forces in view of its charter being recently amended to protect only the Prime Minister, official sources said. Top officials in the security establishment told PTI that the elite organisation with an estimated strength of about 4,000 commando-trained personnel has decided to gradually shift its personnel to their parent organisations and better utilise their services in various internal security duties.
The SPG, in the coming days, will gradually send back more personnel and will only operate with about 50-60 per cent of its sanctioned strength to secure Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they said. This is the first time that the organisation has repatriated these many personnel and officers in one go, they said.
The SPG was raised in 1985 and its complete strength is brought on deputation from various paramilitary or Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and some from the state police units and central intelligence gathering agencies. As per orders issued by the Cabinet Secretariat on Saturday, over 200 personnel working in various operational units of the SPG have been repatriated to their parent units “on completion of their extended tenure” in the agency.
The list includes at least 86 officers and personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force, 45 from the Border Security Force, 23 from the Central Industrial Security Force, 24 from the Sashastra Seema Bal, 17 from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and some others from the Railway Protection Force, Rajasthan Police and the Intelligence Bureau. Officials said fresh intake of personnel in the SPG will also see a drastic cut as the force now only has one protectee to guard.
“It was desired by the government that post the amendment in the SPG Act and withdrawal of the cover from former PM Manmohan Singh and Congress party’s first family Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka, the personnel who are relieved from the force should be better utilised for their original mandated tasks,” a senior officer said. These personnel, who have received specialised training during their SPG stint, will enhance the capability of their respective forces, the officer said. He said the CAPFs have also been directed to utilise the services of these personnel in specialist tasks of undertaking and planning counter-terrorist operations, anti-Naxal offensives and intelligence gathering.
After the central government amended the SPG Act in December last year, its charter has been revised allowing it to only protect the prime minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. The PM’s official residence is 7, Lok Kalyan Marg in the national capital.
The SPG also secures the Prime Minister’s office and does an advance security liaison (ASL) whenever the VVIP is scheduled to visit a venue in the country or abroad. The amendment also stipulated that the SPG will also provide security to former prime ministers and their immediate family members staying with them at the residence allotted for a period of five years from the date on which they cease to hold the office.
Former PM Manmohan Singh and the Congress party President and her children are now guarded by the VIP security wing of the CRPF under the top category ‘Z+’ cover. SPG protectees, as per the protocol, are provided with specially-trained commandos armed with sophisticated weapons, armoured smart vehicles, jammers and ambulance in their carcade.
The SPG Act, enacted by Parliament in 1988, was initially supposed to provide security to only the prime minister and former prime ministers of the country. The Act was amended after the assassination of Congress leader and former PM Rajiv Gandhi to include the immediate family members of former prime ministers, paving the way for Sonia Gandhi as well her children to get the SPG cover.
The need for a separate force for guarding the prime minister of the country was felt after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own security guards on October 31, 1984.