Seven years after parliament attack, serious security questions remain

December 12th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) Seven years after armed militants stormed the Indian parliament and engaged security personnel in a deadly gun battle, questions persist about the security of the country’s highest democratic institution in the light of the Mumbai terror spree.On Dec 13, 2001, five gunmen infiltrated the imposing Parliament House in a car with home ministry and parliament labels. The gunmen slammed their vehicle into the car of then vice president Krishan Kant got out and began indiscriminate firing.

Four terrorists and five policemen were killed, but the attack exposed serious flaws in the security arrangements around parliament and set India and Pakistan almost on the road to war.

Soon after the attack, barring MPs, officials, certified journalists, technicians and office assistants having valid identity cards, entry to important government buildings and installations were restricted to prevent unauthorised entry.

Various measures, including the electrified security system, were installed in and around parliament. If any intruder comes into contact with the fence, he receives a short, painful, but safe shock.

Any tampering with the system activates an alarm and the affected side is immediately pictured on a central control computer that is monitored round the clock.

Apart from such state-of-the-art security arrangements, even MPs and ministers are not allowed to drive up to Parliament House. They have to leave their cars in the parking enclosures.

Only the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, the deputy speaker, the Rajya Sabha chairperson and the deputy chairperson are allowed to drive up to Parliament House.

Ministers and MPs, however, enter parliament without being frisked or having to pass through the ubiquitous metal detectors, leaving unavoidable holes in the security.

Recently, three MPs of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took currency wads running into millions of rupees inside the house without being frisked. The MPs then displayed the cash to everyone.

“We are not authorised to frisk MPs entering or leaving the premises. No one knows what they carry with them,” a senior Delhi Police official who wished not to be identified told IANS.

He recounted an incident when a lookalike of former shipping minister and film star Shatrughan Sinha entered the parliament complex unchecked and left the place, also without being checked.

Another chink to parliament security was exposed Thursday when Delhi Police’s Crime Branch arrested one Ashok Kumar for stealing VIP parking labels from the high-security Rajya Sabha premises.

The police also recovered one stolen entry pass of the Lok Sabha and a forged identity card of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI). A joint team of Delhi Police and Intelligence Bureau were questioning him to find out if he had any larger links.

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