SPG cover gone, Gandhis to be frisked at airports

NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will now be frisked at airports following the withdrawal of their Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover.
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has a list of 30 VVIPs who, along with their accompanying spouses, are exempt from pre-embarkation security checks (PESC) at airports. With SPG protectees on this list, these three top Congress leaders and Robert Vadra (only when flying with wife Priyanka) were exempt from frisking.
However now with the SPG cover gone, the three will be frisked like other passengers and so will Robert Vadra even when accompanying wife Priyanka. The list of 30 has for long had two additions — spouse of president of India even when travelling alone and former prime ministers. In the last three months, BCAS exempted the spouse of vice-president also even when travelling alone and added Chairperson-Lokpal to the list.
The Gandhis now have been given Z-plus category protection by CRPF, a category not in the exempt-from-frisking-at-airports list. The category of dignitaries exempted from frisking at airports include the country’s top positions like the President; VP; PM; governors, LGs, former presidents, VPs and PMs, chief justice of India and Supreme Court judges, Union ministers of cabinet and state rank, chief ministers and deputy CMs, leader of opposition in Lok and Rajya Sabhas and Bharat Ratna awardees.
Security agencies have long been uncomfortable with many positions on this list. Till a few years ago Robert Vadra’s used to be the only name on the list of people exempt from frisking at airports, with the Dalai Lama being the only other non-official person on the list. The government removed his name from the list but with accompanying spouses of exempt category also not being frisked, he was not required to undergo PESC when flying with wife Priyanka.
“Being exempt from frisking means the VVIPs can carry the cabin bag which they are carrying straight on to aircraft without the bag also being frisked. We are not very comfortable when certain categories of people in the list do so,” said sources who did not wish to be named.

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