Centre On Security Post After Lok Sabha Smoke Scare

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'Send Nominations...': Centre On Security Post After Lok Sabha Smoke Scare

Parliament smoke attack: Sagar Sharma, D Manoranjan burst yellow smoke canisters in the Lok Sabha.

New Delhi:

The centre – still firefighting vociferous protests against last week’s Lok Sabha security breach – has asked state governments to propose senior civil servants for the Joint Secretary (Security) post, which is the office in charge of security for the new Parliament building. A 10-line letter from the Home Ministry, dated December 14, was sent to all states (except union territories, Goa, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh) to “send nominations of eligible and willing IPS officers… by December 20”.

The post has been vacant for nearly two months; it was last held by Raghubir Lal, a 1997-batch officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, who was transferred to his home state in early November. Since then, the post – in the spotlight after the security gaffes – has been filled on a temp basis only.

Parliament witnessed incredible scenes last Wednesday after two men popped yellow smoke canisters inside the Lok Sabha. One man – Sagar Sharma – jumped down from the visitors’ gallery and leaped from desk to desk, chased by MPs and security staff, as he ran to the Speaker’s Chair.

Another man – D Manoranjan – stayed in the gallery and popped a second canister.

Almost simultaneously, outside Parliament two others – Neelam Devi and Amol Shinde – popped red and yellow smoke canisters outside in a second breach, shouting slogans against dictatorship.

READ | Lok Sabha Intruders Wanted To “Create Anarchy”, Cops Probe Foreign Link

The twin security scares brought security protocols at the new Parliament, which is supposed to have stricter access rules than the old building, under the scanner.

That Sharma and Manoranjan managed to evade five levels of scanning by hiding smoke canisters in cavities cut into custom-made shoes is one of several questions that need to be answered.

READ | Police Explain How Sagar Sharma Smuggled Smoke Cans Into Parliament

Another area of concern is the process of issuing a visitor pass (suspended for now) and applicants’ background checks. In this case, the office of a Mysuru BJP MP, Prathap Simha, issued the passes.

READ | BJP MP Explains Why His Office Issued Passes To Parliament Intruders

A “high-powered committee” – by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, not the government – has been set up to review all aspects of security and formulate a plan to ensure such incidents do not recur.

The opposition has ripped into the government over the Parliament smoke scare, demanding statements in Parliament from either Home Minister Amit Shah or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Neither has obliged so far, although the PM on Sunday seemed to rebuke the opposition over its calls for explanations, declaring “… no need to debate… will be detailed investigation”.

READ | “Very Serious, Must Know Who’s Behind This”: PM On Parliament Breach

Mr Birla has denied opposition leaders’ demands, insisting it is his office that in charge of security and that he will not allow the centre to intervene. “… jurisdiction for security lies with Lok Sabha secretariat”.

The four who popped the canisters have been arrested; they wanted to draw the government’s attention to critical issues like the ethnic violence in Manipur and rising unemployment.

Lalit Jha, the alleged mastermind of the plot – red-flagged by police as a possible “terrorist conspiracy” – was arrested two days later, as have two others linked to the incident.

READ | How Parliament Breach Accused Destroyed Key Evidence At Rajasthan Village

The intruders and others arrested in this case have been sent to police custody.

Last week 14 opposition MPs were suspended for the rest of this session – the last full sitting before next year’s general election – for demanding answers from the government over the security breach.

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