Major administrative blockade
Punjab government dumps 350 pages security lapse report on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as ruled by the top court Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) both have a common cause to dump the report. It is more than six months since the report of the Supreme Court-appointed inquiry committee looking into the breach in security indicts the then state chief secretary Anirudh Tewari and police chief S Chattopadhyaya for lapses. This incident took place during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Punjab visit on January 5, 2022.
Until now, the only finding of the 350 pages report in the public domain was that it held senior superintendent of police (SSP) Harmandeep Singh Hans responsible for the lapse.
Media in Punjab and Hindustan Times in New Delhi, the exclusive reportage by its Chandigarh-based correspondent Vishal Rambani echoing the security concerns to the Prime Minister. The report indicts the then Punjab civil administration heads and top police brass for breaching the PM’s security. But Bhagwan Mann the Chief Minister has no time to either study this nor take suitable actions administratively. The Secretary of Security in the Union Cabinet Secretariat has also reminded the Chief Secretary and DGP of Punjab, but no effect is visible on an action taken report.
Post such Prime Minister visits any state the local police review the lapses, the Blue Book requires a coordination meeting to be convened by the chief secretary to assess the adequacy of the arrangements made and suggest improvements for future visits. This was also not done.
“The chief secretary could have easily deputed a senior officer from the civil administration to accompany the carcade at Bathinda since it was known on January 4 that the PS to the CM would not be travelling with the entourage. Divisional commissioner R K Kaushik was at Bathinda airport and could have been deputed to accompany the carcade, particularly since no operational duty was assigned to him,” the report added. It said that the chief secretary convened a meeting on December 29, 2021, but did not follow up to ensure that all agencies concerned were coordinating and implementing decisions taken in the first meeting.
Justice Indu Malhotra (retd)-led a five-member panel that has indicted additional director generals of police (ADGP) G Nageswara Rao and Naresh Arora, inspector generals (IG) Rakesh Aggarwal and Inder Bir Singh, the then deputy inspector general (DIG) Surjeet Singh (now retired), and SSP Charanjit Singh.
The report was submitted to the apex court and the Union government on August 25 last year. In September, the latter forwarded it to the Aam Aadmi Party-led state government which is yet to act on it.
The Supreme Court ordered the inquiry after the PM’s convoy was stranded for half an hour on a flyover when he was travelling by road from Bathinda airport to Ferozepur on January 5, 2022. A belligerent crowd of about 300 protesters gathered at the end of the flyover, prompting the Special Protection Group which protects the PM to halt the convoy and head back to the airport. Before heading back to Delhi, PM Modi told Punjab officials, “Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bathinda airport tak zinda laut paaya (Thank your CM on my behalf that I could return alive to Bathinda airport).”
A Congress government headed by Charanjeet Singh Channi was in charge of the state then. On January 12, 2022, the Supreme Court appointed its former judge Indu Malhotra to chair the five-member special committee to probe the security lapses. “The report was received in September, but no action has been taken. The file is in the CMO (chief minister’s office). The home and personnel department are with chief minister Bhagwant Mann. We are awaiting his nod to act,” said a top-ranked official familiar with the matter.
The panel, which does not specify the action to be taken against the indicted officials, found that Faridkot SSP Varun Sharma and AIG (Intelligence) Jaspreet Singh acted according to the Blue Book that details the security to be accorded to the PM. The inquiry found both officials “fully efficient”. The report also absolved the PM’s Special Protection Group (SPG) of any laxity. However, it indicted the Punjab Police brass for its casual and negligent attitude, and referred to the incident as “a colossal failure in planning and coordination”.
The report indicts then chief secretary Tewari for not deputing any officer to travel with the PM’s convoy. In his testimony, Tewari said Husan Lal, the then principal secretary to the CM, was to join the PM’s convoy as the nominee of the chief secretary, but that he tested Covid-positive so didn’t accompany Modi.
The Justice Malhotra panel indicted then DGP Chattopadhyaya, who cleared the route. “The entire attitude of the DGP was one of indifference and dereliction of duty,” the report said. “From records, it appears the DGP didn’t take any steps to brief field officers, hold coordination meetings, or ensure that the arrangement is in order. He didn’t concern himself with the planning of contingency routes at all, even though the Blue Book requires the DGP to be actively involved in the formation of route plans. The failure on the part of the DGP to appoint a nominee to accompany the carcade from Bathinda to Ferozepur is reflective of his complete indifference and apathy to the visit of the PM,” it added.
R R Bhagat, the IG, SPG, shared inputs of disturbance by farmer groups protesting en route to the rally, but the committee found that the DGP didn’t act in time. Instead, he gave the nod for the PM’s travel by road. “Despite intelligence inputs of the movement of farmers, the DGP took no measures to ensure that adequate arrangements had been made for the safety and security of the PM. It was a matter of serious concern that despite having received such information, it was not shared with the SPG nor were any steps taken to enhance the security along the Ferozepur-Moga road by deploying forces on the approach road around the venue,” said the report.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
PGurus is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with all the latest news and views
For all the latest updates, download PGurus App.
Punjab is a nation. India exists on a paper only….. Vasudev kutumb….. BJP has a large & big heart to take all the blame…..