The Indian Premier League security fiasco had me wondering if it is within the Indian constitution for a government to refuse security to a legal Indian citizen or enterprise. I am no constitution expert, but I would expect providing security of life and property to it’s citizens to be one of the founding principles of the constitution. It is the primary job of the government and there’s no way it can shirk the responsibility. If a government says that it lacks the ability to provide security to its citizens and enterprise, is it legal for the government to continue in power?
The chiefs of the 3 armed forces were recently exempted from security checks at airports. In the build up to this decision, you got quotes like “It is a shame that India cannot accord a small privilege for those who guard the country”. Since anything related to the forces always gets linked to patriotism and national pride, so naturally references to the same were made from all corners. Finally the government gave in and extended the privilege of exemptions from security checks. The minister added that it was “absolutely appropriate” that the people who defended the country’s borders should not go through the security check exercise. So ended the matter. The VIP list for exemptions got a little longer for another service. “No big deal. All’s well that ends well. Right?”
Not really. The basic premise for this or any VIP privilege is that a certain person’s time or pride is more important than that of ordinary citizens like you and me. This goes completely against my understanding of democracy and people’s rule. VIP privileges for a chosen few cannot be a part of a democracy. It’s understandable if a dictator is a VIP, but in democratic India, no minister, politician, military officer or even the Prime Minister can be a VIP. He is just another citizen of India chosen to lead and not to rule. Privileges to bypass the queue is just one aspect of the mammoth VIP baggage that the nation carries. In a supposed equitable society, the time and pride of my cook, driver, my boss or the Prime Minister of India should have the same value, at least on paper. There cannot be a government sanction for discrimination.
Security today is big business in Indian cities. It’s perhaps the profession that has undergone the most change over the past decade. Not just shopping malls and multiplexes but even small shops, restaurants and housing societies today have an abundance of security staff. A housing society might not have proper water supply but it will have a team of uniform clad and baton brandishing security staff. Makes one wonder if it’s a need of the times or if we are just getting increasingly paranoid.
Security guards in most cases seem to serve more to boost egos than to serve any real security function. Private security men have become a modern day city nuisance. Not only do they often abuse whatever authority they enjoy but they also regularly go beyond the limits of their allocated domain. Has anybody ever seen a security personnel busy performing security related work? Parking management or just opening doors ends up being their primary activity. They naturally get bored and therefore seem to entertain themselves by making people like me perform crazy car maneuvers before they let me secure a parking space…
(Cont…Click the scanned article image on the left). Published as part of my column for the Maharashtra Herald that’s published on alternate Saturdays. )