July 16, 2017 02:00 AM NPT
VVIP security detail
The Maoist guns fell silent with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006. In the past one decade since the end of the conflict, the police have made great progress in eliminating various criminal and terror groups that were working under various political covers. But even as security threats to the country have been minimized, an astonishing amount of money continues to be spent on the security of designated VVIPs. The state, for instance, spends a combined Rs 18.7 million a month in arranging for the security of the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister. The three have a total of 675 security personnel. The rest of the ministers also enjoy four levels of security, comprised of personnel from Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Intelligence Department. Even ex-prime ministers and ex-ministers are given multi-layered security covers. The question is: Do our political leaders need such elaborate security arrangements in peace-time Nepal? According to security experts Republica talked to, the answer is a clear ‘No’. So what explains the posses of army and police personnel who accompany our VVIPs wherever they go, and, in fact, even when they are safely ensconced in their homes? Why are such large sums being wasted in these needless security measures?
For that we have to look at who decides on these security arrangements. It is a committee comprised of home and defense secretaries as well as the chiefs of all four security agencies. These officials have a vested interest in ensuring that the powers that be are well looked after. This is because our VVIPs tend to equate the number of security personnel deployed in their service with prestige. For the security chiefs, it is the perfect way to curry favor from their image-conscious political bosses. Interestingly, before the start of the Maoist insurgency in 1996, the security details of our VVIPs used to be much more modest. But instead of cutting down on the details after the CPA’s signing, top political leaders choose to retain old arrangements. But why does the president, for instance, need 275 army personnel to guard her, when as a ceremonial head she faces next to no security threat? Or why does the vice-president need over 300 personnel to guard him at all times? The Home Ministry now says it is in the process of revising the directives for deployment of security personnel for VVIPs.
But it is hard to believe that the ministry will roll back on security arrangements of VVIPs so easily, not with our political leaders so keen to retain their privileges, and not with our security chiefs so beholden to their political masters. If something has to be done, it has to be done through the sovereign parliament. People’s chosen representatives must raise this issue of public interest in parliament and its good governance committee summon security chiefs for clarification on the issue. As public pressure builds, the committee must then direct home ministry to update its security personnel deployment manual in line with the changed security environment. In the name of political transition, our politicians have tried to justify all kinds of self-serving and undemocratic measures. It is time to put an end to this culture of pompous waste.