South Asian Games budget up because of terror threat

NEW DELHI: In the wake of the Pathankot IAF Airbase attack, the government has decided to raise the security level for next month’s South Asian Games, to be held in Guwahati (Assam) and Shillong (Meghalaya).

editorial@tribune.com

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, january 11

In the wake of the Pathankot IAF Airbase attack, the government has decided to raise the security level for next month’s South Asian Games, to be held in Guwahati (Assam) and Shillong (Meghalaya).

It has been learnt that roughly Rs 50-60 crore will be spent on the security, keeping in mind the history of infiltration or border disputes in the Northeast region.

According to a government estimate, the Games will cost the exchequer around Rs 90 crore. It is likely that the security budget would be increased further, to a level equivalent to that of organising the Games. The main worry for the government is that the host cities are in states that share a border with Bangladesh or Myanmar.

The presence of local extremist groups such as National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) and Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) is keeping the security establishment on the tenterhooks.

It has been learnt that the government had initially marked Rs 30 crore for securing the Games, but the budget was revised due to different reasons, including the Pathankot attack. Another reason is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee will be part of the opening and closing ceremonies, respectively.

“All the venues and athletes would be accorded a three-layer security ring, mostly by para-military forces,” a senior Sports Ministry official said. “Pakistan has already raised safety concerns for its athletes after threats from Shiv Sena.”

No Games Village

Another reason for worry is that in the absence of a Games Village, the athletes will be put in different hotels. This means that different places and routes would have to be secured for them in the two host cities.

Security equipment purchased during the 2010 Commonwealth Games has already been dispatched to the SAG venues.

The Home Ministry had convened a meeting of all the South Asian countries’ High Commissioners recently to apprise them of the security arrangements.

India has decided to allow Pakistani sportspersons entry into India via airports in Kolkata and Guwahati. At present, Pakistanis can enter India via road through the Wagah-Attari border, or by air through Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

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