Living in a developing country where the motorcar is still a luxury for many, it is rather strange if someone talks about fighting for the poor, spends a night in their humble homes, and then comes up with first world problems like calling an air-conditioned, armoured vehicle suffocating. But in April 2016, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s office had petitioned against the armoured Tata Safari cars assigned to SPG protectees like him, calling them a health hazard due to lack of proper ventilation in the passenger compartment, their unstable centre of gravity and bad seat layout.
One could understand if the air-conditioner did not function as it should. But the purpose of existence for an armoured vehicle is to protect the occupant inside by shielding the individual with a tough layer. But hear this, the petition from Rahul Gandhi’s office complained that the cars’ windows, which could retract only a few centimetres, made it impossible for the protectee to meet and greet party workers while inside and that the armour also gave an appearance of conspicuous consumption.
In a letter written to the then SPG chief Vivek Shrivastava, Rahul’s staff said the Congress vice-president had frequently conveyed his reservations about the “poor quality of the current fleet of armoured cars which have an unstable centre of gravity given the load/weight of the body armour and are an unhealthy option to travel in for several hours a day.” We don’t know if the air-conditioner in those Tata Safaris has a recirculation mode, it probably does. But the letter further added, “Long car journeys in a suffocating vehicle with less than recommended or acceptable levels of oxygen itself are a health hazard for the protectee.”
According to the Indian Express, a Union Home Ministry official has refuted the claim saying Rahul Gandhi is provided with the same Tata Safari armoured vehicle, which is also used by top ministers like home minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley. The Tata Safari armoured vehicle is also used by many Z-plus category protectees and is considered to be safe and comfortable.
After the recent attacks on Mr.Gandhi during his visit to Gujarat, the Home minister clarified in the Parliament that in the past two years, Rahul had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours and he did not use the bullet proof car on 100 occasions. Singh also said that Rahul went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for it to provide proper security.
The Times of India has highlighted a part of the letter which could make you vote for the Congress next time. It says, “As per the April 2016 letter, the Congress vice-president also had problems with the blockage of traffic to let his carcade pass through. Despite several requests from the protectee and his office, both prior to and during visits to various states to ensure normal traffic arrangements, the SPG’s coordination with the local/state police often results in unnecessary, insensitive and thoughtless blockage of traffic on the roads and consequently grave inconvenience to the general public, especially in the case of health emergency services.”