It will end dilution of the Act over the years: Amit Shah
Parliament on Tuesday passed an amendment to the Special Protection Group Act, 1988, that will allow SPG cover to the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers for a period of five years after leaving office.
The SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Rajya Sabha by voice vote, after the Congress staged a walkout accusing the government of targeting the Gandhis — Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Responding to allegations of “political vendetta,” Home Minister Amit Shah said he was opposed to “dynasty, not family.” He said the SPG had been raised to provide security to Prime Ministers after the assassination of the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, but four amendments to the Act had been brought over the years to dilute it in order to provide SPG cover to former Prime Ministers’ families.
The amendments would end the “dilution” of the Act over the years. They had been brought keeping “one family” in mind.
He said the amendment would not affect the Gandhis as their SPG cover had already been revoked following a review.
Replying to Congress MPs’ concern about a recent security breach at Ms. Vadra’s residence, Mr. Shah said it was not due to the revocation of SPG cover. He said the Z+ category security given by Central Reserve Police Force to the Gandhis did not reduce the number of personnel deployed at their homes. The SPG comprised personnel from the CRPF, Border Security Force and other Central and State forces on five-year deputations. Personnel who had undergone SPG training and had been deputed in the elite force earlier had been deployed for the Gandhis’ security now.
He said the government was concerned about the security of “130 crore Indians,” and they included the Gandhis as well as “BJP workers.” He said 120 workers of the party had been killed in Kerala.
With the amendment, he said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would stand to lose as SPG cover would be revoked five years after he leaves office.
Earlier, in the two-hour discussion on the Bill, Vivek Tankha of the Congress said the Gandhi family had already lost two members — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. “How many more people do you want to lose,” he asked the Home Minister. He said the government would be held responsible if anything were to happen to the Gandhis.
Neeraj Shekhar of the BJP, son of former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar, said he had enjoyed SPG protection for 11 years and had felt that there was “no need” for expenditure on such a level of security for him. Today, he said, there was opposition to “VIP culture.” Shiromani Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral, son of former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, said he too had been given SPG cover, which he said had become a “status symbol.”
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