Monday, 22 April 2013

Ambani is more deserving of VIP security than others

My initial reaction to the news that Mukesh Ambani would get Z-plus category security was one of absolute outrage.  For the usual reasons – why should a few Indians move around in armoured cocoons while the rest of us live in absolute insecurity; why should the taxpayer bankroll the security of a man who, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, lives in the world’s costliest home; this will start a trend of other businessmen seeking the same level of security.
Just 20 minutes earlier, my heart had been gladdened by a report in the Newsline section of the Indian Express (devoted to city news). That said the Delhi government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that visiting VIPs from other states could bring their own security only if they were staying in the Capital for less than 72 hours and, in any case, they could not use sirens and flashers nor could the armed personnel accompanying them brandish their guns at or intimidate the public to clear traffic on the roads. That is a common sight on Delhi roads, where Black Cat commandos bully others driving on roads to give way to VIP cavalcades. (Read this report here.
When I read the report about Ambani’s security in the main paper after this, I was angry once again.
My mind went back some years ago, when P Chidambaram had just been shifted to the home ministry after 26/11. I was stuck in a traffic jam and suddenly noticed that the car next to me had a red beacon on top. Other cars were honking and trying to manoeuvre in whatever little space they got (as only people stuck in Delhi traffic can do) but this car remained where it was (I don’t recall if the beacon was flashing) and didn’t use the siren (as Delhi VIPs are wont to do to get ahead in traffic or to jump traffic lights). Then I found that the person who was sitting in the back seat, rubbing his eyes tiredly, was none other than Home Minister Chidambaram, entitled to Z plus security. There were no escort vehicles surrounding his car.
I asked a friend to tweet about this contrast – between Ambani and Chidambaram. The latter had refused to take any security though his predecessor, Shivraj Patil, continued with his full complement even after demitting office. Chidambaram had also initiated a review of VIP security and struck 130 people off the list, generating a lot of heartburn.
By late afternoon came reports that Ambani would pay the government for the cost of his security, but that didn’t mollify me. Trained people would still be diverted for his use and even if he pays, replacing them won’t be easy.
But by evening my opinion had changed. By then I had read about how Chidambaram’s successor, Sushil Kumar Shinde, had reversed his approach and been pretty generous about granting security cover to a host of politicians as well as a petrol pump owner in Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi’s constituency. Read about that in this report.
That’s when it struck me. What is the contribution of these worthies to the country? In what way are they enriching our lives? At least Ambani is contributing to the GDP, generating wealth and employment. Even his obscenely humungous Antilla would have had tremendous trickle down on other industries – cement, steel, construction, to name just three. Whatever else you may call him, you can’t call him a parasite.
He, perhaps, is more deserving of security than they are. Yet they will demand it as an entitlement. While he is paying for it.

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