January 8, 2022 - 11:27 am

PM's Security Breach 

    The security breach in Punjab, which saw the PM's cavalcade stranded on a flyover in Ferozepur district for over 15 minutes due to farmers' protest blocking the road and subsequently led to the cancellations of the PM schedule programs after what the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) called a 'major security breach' that the lapse was a result of either "lack of communications" between the agencies "incompetence of the state police" or "lack of preparedness" by the Special Protection Group, responsible for the PM's security.

    While the MHA sought a report from the Punjab government on the "major lapse", accusing the state police of not putting "sufficient deployment", Punjab CM Channi claimed that all arrangements were in place and that the PM's plan to take the land route instead of the chopper was "too sudden for his government to make alternative arrangements."

    The centre formed a three-member committee to enquire into "serious lapses" in security arrangements. The state government has also constituted a two-member high level committee to conduct a 'through probe' into the Firozpur lapses. The Supreme Court will also hear a plea seeking a through investigation into the matter. The President, too, expressed his concerns about the serious lapse.

        The security agencies, however, go by the rule book and there is always a 'contingency plan' -  which has a land route in case the PM is unable to take the chopper for any reason. And this plan is prepared with the local police local, intelligence unit and other security units on board.

     The aftermath of the breach also needs to be examined carefully. A heightened level of contentious and even cantankerousness is to be expected among the main political players in the state that has just seen a prolonged farmers' agitation come to an end after the Centre's repeal of the farm laws. The refrain speaks of terrible breakdown of respect in the centre and the state, that is corrosive in a federal multi party democracy.

     Irrespective of how it happened, the blocking of the PM's route by protesters in Punjab was a security breach. Without imputing motives, explaining how protests are a part of democracy, or hypothesizing how other PMs from the past may have dealt with this - there has been a lot of all three - it is important to acknowledge this fact. It is also  irrelevant to even wonder whether the PM was in any real danger. What matters and is relevant is that there was clearly a security breach. That it happened in a border state where there has been heightened drone activity from across the broader, ahead of state elections, and soon after a lengthy protest by the state's farmers against the Union government, makes the breach that much more significant (and worrying).