They look straight out of a Hollywood action film.
Crisply dressed in black, wearing dark sunglasses, a Bluetooth device and an absolutely expressionless face betraying no hint of a hyper-vigilant mind.
They are the security personnel of Special Protection Group (SPG), the unsung heroes who keep our democratically elected head safe from the potential threats.
SPG was created in 1985 after the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi that shook the whole nation.
Till then, protecting the top leaders was a shared responsibility among various agencies including of Special Security District of the Delhi Police and later the Special Task Force created by the Intelligence Bureau.
Since there was no single agency accountable for the PM's protection, in 1984, the Special Protection Group came into being.
Who is the SPG?
SPG, as described in the Special Protection Group Act 1988, is essentially the armed force of the Union. The security squad provides proximate security to the PM, i.e. protection from close quarters.
From carrying out anti-sabotage checks to sanitizing the venues, the SPG is responsible for the zero-error security of the PM.
SPG personnel are recruited from various armed units such as the Indian Police Service, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Border Security Force & Sashastra Seema Bal. After finishing their tenure as an SPG personnel, they go back to joining their respective units.
So what all does one need to qualify to be a part of the SPG?
The selection procedure to join the SPG is no mean feat.
The exhaustive procedure involves an interview with the Inspector General of Police, two deputy IGs and two assistant IGs, followed by a physical test, a written test and a psychological assessment.
In the first phase of their training, which goes on for 3 months, they undergo a rigorous armed and unarmed combat training. An intense training of physical efficiency, marksmanship, anti-sabotage checks and communication further pushes their limits.
Still, not all those who train get to be a part of the PM's entourage.
Only the best make it through and are further trained for three months before they're inducted into the squad that stays with the PM within an arm's length.
Till 1991, the SPG protection was only given to the current PM. But after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, the SPG protection was extended to the former PM and their immediate families for a period of 10 years. Currently, they're provided with SPG security for a year after reviewing the threat perception.
Typically, an SPG personnel dons a black safari suit and tie. Every minute detail, from the number of men accompanying the PM when he gets down from the car to the number of men sharing the podium with him, is carefully planned.
You can get an idea of their commitment from a statement given by Vijay Raman, former special director-general of CRPF and a member of the founding SPG team, to Live Mint. He said:
The relation between a personal security officer and the protectee is akin to that of a mother and a child. In times of danger, the mother will sacrifice herself to save the child, and that is the ethic we looked for.
While guarding our country's leaders, these brave men are exposed to a lot of dangers.
Even while they're right there in the public eye, the nature of their work and commitment requires them to keep their personal and professional life under the wraps and maintain little to no social connections.
Now that's some incredible dedication!