Assam cabinet decides to withdraw house, security facilities to former chief ministers

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Assam cabinet meeting has resolved that former chief ministers will no longer entail a house and existing security post demitting the office. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has decided to bring down his convoy from an existing fleet of 22 vehicles to seven to eight while moving in Guwahati.

The cabinet also resolved that a personal security officer (PSO) will be deployed based on core security review and constitutional post. Sarma while talking to media persons on Saturday said, “We have taken a symbolic decision in the cabinet meeting. During the chief minister of Tarun Gogoi a decision was taken that former chief ministers will get a house and security post demitting the office. However prospectively we have decided to discontinue this and security will be there depending upon the threat perception and not because of the office.”

The Central Reserve Police Force is responsible for providing cover to Sarma instead of the National Security Guard. His predecessors — Sarbananda Sonowal, Tarun Gogoi and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta — enjoyed NSG protection based on threat perception in the insurgency-hit Assam. Gogoi’s NSG cover was replaced with CRPF in 2016 after BJP came to power.

Similarly, Mahanta’s NSG cover was downgraded by the Union home ministry in 2019 as it decided to use the black cats for counter-terror operations. He was granted Z plus security in 2017. Sarma had been a CRPF protectee since 2017, He held Assam’s health, finance and education portfolios in the previous Sonowal government.

Sarma said, “Barring some protocols, the Skelton fleet will be in Guwahati city. From tomorrow or thereafter the convoy must come down from 22 vehicles to seven to eight. We are moving to ideal situation where chief minister can move without security however for this peace has to come.”

The cabinet has decided PSO will be provided on the basis of core security review and constitutional post. Sarma said, “For providing this security around four battalions, 4440 people are deployed as PSO. Annually Assam spends Rs 400 Crore. This cannot continue.”

He added, politicians account for 50 percent of the deployment 2526, while civil persons 854 people are deployed. “Judicial services account for 546 people besides businessmen and youth leaders have 167 personnel. Around 40 personnel are with the tea estate manager and 52 are with former militants. There will be a complete overhaul of this set up and categorisation as “z” depending on threat perception.”

The chief minister said, “While Superintendent of Police will be able to provide PSO for 10 days, DGP and ADGP can do it for 30 days. Beyond that it will require approval of the chief minister. The idea is to bring the size down to 2600 and PSO must not be seen as a status symbol.”

Stating that tribal insurgency is over in Assam, Sarma said, “My personal interaction with Persons who are in touch with anti-talk ULFA chief Paresh Baruah feel that he too wants a negotiated settlement. Government also wants a negotiated settlement. Issue of sovereignty is a stumbling block and we are working towards creating a new position where both parties do not feel it is difficult to talk.”

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