M A I N   N E W S

PM’s security being beefed up
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 7
The Prime Minister’s security is being beefed up in a big way and several unprecedented measures have either come up already or are in the pipeline, well placed government sources told The Tribune today.

The ongoing exercise has acquired special importance in view of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s confirmation that he would be visiting Pakistan to attend the 12th SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad from January 4 to 6.

Security agencies believe that this development has added a whole new dimension to the VVIP security scenario as terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have already gone on record saying that Prime Minister Vajpayee himself was their target and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen also recently declared its intention of targeting the Prime Minister.

To ward off “fidayeen” squads trying to ram into the Prime Minister’s house with a truck bomb or a car bomb, a concrete wall is being constructed on the periphery, separating the house from the main road. The wall would render any such attack ineffective.

The sources said the review of the PM’s security was “a continuous process” and there was nothing abrupt about the current review.

Among the new security measures for the PM, the most important is perhaps the most controversial as the security managers still do not seem to have made up their minds about it: construction of a helipad at the Prime Minister’s house at Race Course Road.

The construction of the proposed helipad has still not begun as there are a lot of pros and cons on the million-dollar question: whether the PM is more safe when he takes the aerial route within the capital or when he takes the land route.

It has been several months since Mr Vajpayee has stopped his weekly public ‘darshans’ in the lawns of the Prime Minister’s house because the security agencies believed that the PM is unduly exposed to a potential sniper rifle or telescopic rifle attack from the nearby high-rise buildings.

Besides, a bulletproof glasstube passage has already come up at the Prime Minister’s house connecting 3, Race Course Road to Panchvati where Mr Vajpayee meets people and delegations. TDP MP Mr Venugopalachari, who used to live in 1, Race Course Road, has vacated in response to government’s requests and the Special Protection Group (SPG) has taken over this bungalow as well.

The SPG’s acquisition of 1, Race Course Road plugs a gaping loophole in the PM’s security as its adjacent bungalow, 3 Race Course Road is the private residential zone for the PM though he operates from 7, Race Course Road.

With the SPG taking over 1, Race Course Road, the entire stretch of the road which houses bungalows number 1, 3. 5, 7 and 9 is now under the total control of the PM’s security apparatus.

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