From Presidential meetings to Twitter debates, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s debacle en route to Ferozepur has sure kicked up a storm. After blocking off and redirecting the PM from a BJP political rally, the actions of protesting farmers have raised several questions regarding Modi’s security arrangements.

Who ultimately is responsible for protecting the Prime Minister? How do they go about doing it, and what special equipment do they use? We’ll answer these questions and more, below.

Meet the SPG

For the first 34 years of Independent India, Prime Ministers were protected primarily by the efforts of the Delhi Police, overseen by an officer with the rank of Deputy Commissioner. In the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, the Ministry of Home Affairs arranged for a thorough review of top-level security – deciding to turn the 1981-born Special Task Force into a permanent unit.

Thus, the SPG or Special Protection Group came into being on 30th March 1985.

In a nutshell, the primary responsibility of the SPG is to protect the Prime Minister at all times nationally and internationally – while this was initially extended to family members as well, the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Act, 2019 resulted in Narendra Modi becoming the sole focus of all SPG personnel.

The SPG consists of around 3,000 active personnel. Most of these are recruited from various enlisted ranks of the Central Armed Police Forces and Railway Protection Force – officers and leadership roles are generally recruited from the IPS.

After applying for an SPG post, candidates undergo a bevy of intense physical and psychological tests, along with deep security screening to ensure trust. Once initiated, SPG personnel are divided into four broad categories, depending on their responsibilities:

  • Operations: These agents perform the actual duty of escorting and protecting the PM. This is further divided into a Communications Wing, Technical Wing, and Transport Wing.
  • Training: With extremely high stakes to manage, SPG officers ensure that their crew is in the best shape possible, necessitating the existence of a dedicated training force. Here, personnel both new and experienced go through physical training, marksmanship practice, anti-sabotage checks, and advanced tactics.
  • Intelligence and Tours: No head of state can be guaranteed safety, but an intel wing certainly helps. This section deals with threat assessment, character verification, and more.
  • Administration: Even India’s top personal security force needs staff to handle HR, finance, and other duties.

For all outings, the SPG refers to a codified guideline known as the ‘Blue Book’. While its mandates are naturally not available to the public, they are drafted by the Home Ministry. One of the most important things it enforces are ‘Advance Security Liaison’ meetings leading up to any state visit.

The SPG, along with Intelligence Bureau staff, state police officials and others, draft a highly-detailed plan to ensure the PM’s security, along with contingency plans in the event of an attack or diversion.

The Delhi Police

Narendra Modi Delhi Police
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi meeting the DGPs at the All India Conference of DGP/IGP, at Guwahati on November 30, 2014.
The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju is also seen.

While within the capital, the SPG works in tandem with local law enforcement to handle security needs.

Sensitive events draw on the wider use of Delhi Police personnel, some of which are used to patrol, cordon off convoy routes, and escort the PM’s cavalcade from forward and behind.

Apart from these occurrences, the PM’s residence is guarded by an additional 89 policemen at all times.

Top-Level Security Gear

While a massive amount of behind-the-scenes effort goes into every public appearance for the PM, each security guard ultimately has to do the best with what they have in case of an emergency scenario.

Not all agents are equal, however. If you pay close attention during high-profile events such as Republic Day, you’ll notice two divisions of SPG personnel – one donning MIB-style suits and shades, while the rest wearing more conventional protective gear.

Personnel assigned to the PM’s personal security detail generally wear black business suits during winter or while overseas, and switch to grey safari suits during hotter months. Under this, they wear a bulletproof vest, along with concealed weapons and communications gear.

One of the more interesting things carried by these agents appear as simple black briefcases. They are, in fact, unfolding ballistic shields – these can allow guards to protect VIPs from small caliber firearms.

Narendra Modi SPG

Along the outer perimeter, you’ll notice personnel in combat boots, bulletproof vests and kneepads, generally carrying assault rifles.

The SPG armory generally consists of FN P90 submachine guns, Glock-17 or Glock-19 pistols for uniformed officers, FN F2000 and FN SCAR assault rifles – all European firearms. That said, the SPG is also phasing in IOF ‘Modern Sub-Machine Carbines’, which are manufactured within the country.

Traveling in Safety and Style

Mercedes Maybach S650

Recent headlines confirmed the Prime Minister’s latest motorcade upgrade – while the whole fleet consists of several armored luxury vehicles and even two Mercedes-Benz ambulances, the crown jewel of India’s PM road fleet is the Mercedes-Maybach S650 Guard.

Simply put, this custom S650 offers the highest level of protection you can expect from a road-going car. For starters, the windows come coated with a polycarbonate layer, allowing them to absorb impacts from hardened steel-core bullets.

Along with a reinforced, ‘self-healing’ body shell, the car has an Explosive Resistant Vehicle (ERV) rating, allowing the PM to remain safe even if a 15kg TNT explosion happens just 2 meters from the vehicle. It even has an emergency air supply, in the event of a gas attack.

It’s also good for a quick getaway. Despite weighing over two tonnes, the car’s 6-litre twin-turbo V12 belts out a serious 516 BHP, allowing it to reach 100 kmph in just under 5 seconds.

When flight is a requirement, the PM relies on two modes of transport – the Air India One, and a custom batch of Mi-17 helicopters.

Both come with various measures designed to deter threats during entry or exit, as well as better crashworthiness and armor plating.

(Image Sources: @narendramodi, PIB)