Maharashtra VIP security unit now hiring to meet the challenge
Mumbai: Plagued by vacancies and stretched by additional duties since a change in government, a special Maharashtra police unit that guards VIPs is launching a recruitment drive for nearly 450 new personnel later this month.
The Special Protection Unit (SPU) of Maharashtra Police has been facing additional stress since July when security of all legislators and parliamentarians affiliated to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s camp was upgraded to ‘Y+’ security.
Usually legislators are given ‘X category’ security, unless they are cabinet ministers or face threats. ‘Y+’ security includes two Special Protection Officers (SPOs) during the day and three police constables standing guard standing guard at their residence at night. X category denotes the presence of one police personnel with the protectee.
Maharashtra Police has also been relying on former SPU personnel attached to local police units or Force One to provide security to these politicians, in addition to those currently with the unit. SPOs are drawn from Maharashtra police after they clear a physical test. They are then trained in protecting VIPs.
Usually, the tenure of an officer with the SPU is two years. This can be extended by a year, following which they go back to regular policing.
According to a senior official : “The induction training of 468 personnel for the SPU will be held at SRPF ground at Pune on November 22.” The official added that while the total sanctioned strength of SPU is around 1,500, it currently has around a thousand personnel. Among them, too, 400 personnel will soon be transferred to other units as their tenure with SPU is over, the official added.
The sanctioned strength of Maharashtra Police is more than 2.20 lakh, against which it currently has 1.80 lakh personnel. Due to Covid-19, annual hirings have not been carried out in the past three years, due to which the number of vacant posts is higher. Maharashtra Police recently began hiring around 18,000 constables, a senior officer said. While general security is provided by local police units to those facing threats, SPU personnel provide security to those VIPs who have been catergorised by a government panel under various levels — X, Y, Y plus, Z and Z plus. The categorisation depends upon the threat perception faced by them, This could be ‘grave’, ‘impending’, ‘continuous’, or ‘likely’ — the last of which comes under the X category.
The State Intelligence Department (SID) determines the threat perception. Based on the SID inputs, a panel comprising the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and state DGP take a decision on categorising protectees. Soon after the split in the undivided Shiv Sena in June end, around 41 MLAs and 10 MPs initially went with the Shinde camp. They were provided Y+ security of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) by the Union government. There were fears that once they returned to the city, they could be attacked by the section of the Sena affiliated to former CM Uddhav Thackeray, who was then still in charge.
Later, after the Shinde camp formed the government in the state along with the BJP, all of the splinter group MLAs were provided Y+ security by the state government, which has continued to this day. Many believed that with their own government in the state, the threat perception to the Shinde party workers would have reduced.
Last month, however, their security was formally categorised as ‘Y+’ by the government panel. Sources said at least three legislators returned the security as they believed it interfered with their day-to-day functioning.
Even as the security of Shinde camp members was increased, the cover for several Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders were scaled down or withdrawn.
This is usual practice when governments change as several leaders enjoy protection for occupying a certain post which they later give up.
Those whose security cover was completely removed during the previous meeting last month included Congress leaders Vijay Wadettiwar, Balasaheb Thorat and Nana Patole; and NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, Narhari Zirwal, former deputy speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, and Eknath Khadse. Shiv Sena’s (Uddhav B Thackeray) Bhaskar Jadhav, Anil Parab, Sanjay Raut and Varun Sardesai, a relative of the Thackerays, too, lost their security cover.
The Z+ security cover accorded to Chief Minister Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and the Ambani family was retained. Actor Salman Khan was also provided Y+ security owing to an alleged threat he faced from the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, which is linked to the Sidhu Moosewala killing.