Raised in 1988, the Special Protection Group, or SPG as it is known is a finely trained organization that provides proximate security to the VIPs of India. These VIPs are generally present and former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members.
History of SPG:
When the then PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated, the government felt a need to raise a dedicated force whose sole responsibility will be to protect present and former PMs of India and their immediate family members.
Before the formation of SPG, the local police force, municipality, and other armed forces used to provide security, but there was no coordination among them. It was called Special Task Force (STF) and it was handled by the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
With initial vacancies of 819 posts, the director of Special Protection Group was an IPS officer of the rank of Inspector General of Police.
The SPG was constituted and was specifically trained to provide protection to the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, viewing the threats in and around him. The SPG stopped its cover after PM Rajiv Gandhi lost elections the next time which increased threats around him. After his assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to provide security to former Prime Ministers and also to their immediate families.
It was initially proposed that the protection to former Prime Minister and their immediate family members were to be given for a period of 10 years from the date on which the former Prime Minister give up the office. It is today revised to 1 year and is reviewed depending on threat perception.
Since then, the SPG has had only one task – protect Prime Minister and their family
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According to sources, an increase of about 40 percent was made in the 1997-98 Union Budget in the allocation for the Special Protection Group. The allocation for the SPG was Rs. 46 crores in the last Budget which increased to Rs. 54.39 crores in the 1996-97 revised estimate. The Union Finance Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, allocated Rs. 75.59 crores for 1997-98, reflecting pressure on the SPG and expansion of the security cover provided by SPG.
How are Members of SPG Selected?
Unlike any other force, the SPG does not have a direct dedicated entry. The senior and junior officers are recruited from the Indian Police Service (IPS), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Border Security Force (BSF), and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
SPG personnel changes every year in the group. No single individual serves for more than one year. As previous SPG personnel are sent back to their parent unit after completing their tenure, a vacancy list is sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs to these organizations. The list then forwards down the hierarchy to the next lower levels of units. Many personnel applies for various posts in SPG through this.
The selection procedure:
Just like the SSB, the selection has PI, Psych, and Physical tests. The first stage of the selection process is a personal interview conducted by an IPS officer of the rank of IG (Inspector General), two deputy IGs and two assistant IGs. After the interview, a physical exam, a written test, and a psychological evaluation are held.
The candidates are kept on probation for three months that includes a weekly test. Those who fail in the probation are given another chance in the next batch and if they still can not clear it, then they are returned to the parent unit. SPG members are rotated regularly from one duty to another.
Branches of SPG:
The SPG is broadly categorized into 4 branches
- Operations: It deals with the actual protection duties. In the Operations Branch, there are components like Communications Wing, Transport Wing and Technical Wing.
- Training: This category deals with training of personnel in physical efficiency, firing, anti-sabotage checks, communication and other operative aspects.
- Intelligence and Tours: It deals with threat assessment, internal intelligence pertaining to personnel, verification of character and antecedents, tours and other related jobs.
- Administration – This category deals with personnel, procurement and other related matters.
Qualification, Age Limit and Allowances:
- The candidate should be a citizen of India.
- The age of the candidate should not be more than 35 years.
- Passed 12th standard from a recognized board.
- Serving member of IPS, BSF, ITBP and CRPF.
- Allowance of SPG members are 50% of their basic pay. Members in the administrative section get a hike of 25%.
How SPG Functions:
There are standard operating procedures laid down to protect the PM wherever he goes – be it domestic or foreign tour. This included everything from anti-sabotage checks, sanitizing of venues and personal security details.
There are detailed operational procedures in place specifying everything like the number of men accompanying him in the car, at the dias, etc. They also keep a strict check on who meets PM and who is allowed to meet. The SPG also answers the PM’s phone calls and asks the PM to decide whether to meet the person or not.
The SPG protects the PM by forming multiple security rings around him. The members of the innermost ring have the sole mission of getting the PM to safety in case of an attack. The SPG Counter Assault Team usually forms the second level. They are tasked with providing covering firepower to allow enough time for PM to get to safety.
Besides the main assault team that you see here, they may also be supported by a third cordon which includes NSG, IAF, and local forces for perimeter and aerospace safety.
So, the next time you think of it, oh, don’t even think of it.