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If you are looking for some of India’s most important people, a look at the list of people with Z-plus security cover provided by the government would help. It includes Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, national security advisor Ajit Doval and Union ministers like Arun Jaitley.

The latest addition to this list is Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological arm of the BJP. He is the only non-political figure to be granted such a security cover and, according to news reports, it will be provided by the commando unit of the paramilitary outfit Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Till now, the Maharashtra police used to give Bhagwat security cover.

The level of security cover usually depends on the threat perception. Currently, there are four different levels, starting with Special Protection Group (SPG) cover, which is provided to the prime minister and his family and former prime ministers and their family members. For instance, the Gandhi family still moves with SPG cover. The SPG is a specially trained elite security force with members from paramilitary forces.

The Z-plus security cover comes next. It is provided by National Security Guard and CISF commandos. The next level is Z security cover provided by the police or personnel from the paramilitary outfits Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The next two categories are Y and X.

The Z category security cover that Yoga guru Ramdev used to enjoy in Uttarakhand where he stays has been extended to across the country by the National Democratic Allaince (NDA) government. Such decisions are taken by a committee consisting of Intelligence Bureau officials, home secretary and the Union home minister.

While the official reason cited is always threat perception to the person, over the years it has also become a way of parading one’s political clout and power.

After being elected in 2014, the NDA pruned or completely did away with security covers of Congress leaders such as Manish Tewari and Salman Khurshid. Some like RPN Singh had their security cover downgraded to Y category. However, one of the government’s most controversial decisions has been giving Z-plus security cover to Uttar Pradesh MLA Sangeet Som, who was named as an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riot case.

In 2013, businessman Mukesh Ambani was provided Z security cover by the government but was asked to pay the salaries of the commandos, fund the upkeep of the escort vehicles and provide accommodation for personnel.

VIP security has always been under scrutiny as it eats into the precious manpower needs of the country’s security forces. According to a 2012 report of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, 47,557 personnel are protecting 14,842 VIPs across the country. Following the Delhi gang-rape of 2012, the Supreme Court too had raised concerns over security personnel being diverted for VIP security.

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