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Why Bollywood Actors Need Security

As icons of Indian film industry, it is the responsibility of the state -- both state government and the central agencies -- to safeguard their security

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Any news about Bollywood actors - whether good or bad - makes the headlines in print media and an all-day ticker news on television news channels, not to mention the chatter on social media platforms.

So when Mumbai Police reviewed the security details of around 40 Bollywood personalities, which includes actors, director, and producers, and concluded that more than half do not require the state police protection, it was an instant eye catcher across hundreds of news channels, online portals, social media platforms.

It is confirmed now that the Mumbai Police has decided to completely withdraw the state police protection to Bollywood director-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Farah Khan and event organizers turned film producers Ali Morani and Karim Morani. There are 20 more such personalities who will not get the protection from Mumbai Police for now.

At the same time the Mumbai Police is not withdrawing the protection provided to actor Akshay Kumar, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt, Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar, and Amitabh Bachchan among others.

Then there are the newsmakers - the Khans: Aamir and Shah Rukh - whose official security cover has been reduced. From now on, these two kings of Bollywood will get only two armed constables who will tag along whenever they go out in public.

But here is the big question: Why do these superstars, who are among the elite list of highest individual tax payers, need state protection when they can very well afford their own personal security. An obvious question yes but the answer to it is not so obvious. Let's go into some of the challenges.

As icons of Indian film industry, it is the responsibility of the state - both state government and the central agencies - to safeguard their security. Based on intelligence reports, personal requests, and threat perception and to maintain law and order in situations where a gathering of fans can anytime turn into a mob, state Police provides the security cover. The lesser known fact is that a fees is charged to the Bollywood stars for the security cover unless exempted by the authorities. So many of the Bollywood stars pay the Police for services rendered. It is a different matter altogether that the fees is much lower than hiring a private security agency which many stars regularly do.

Secondly, private security agencies in India are governed by the Private Security Agency Regulation Act 2005 which extends to whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Under its provisions, no private security personals can carry arms and ammunition. So any incident involving shootings, attack with arms etc. cannot be tackled by the private security people that surround the Bollywood icons in public. Any personal licensed firearms issued by the state Police cannot be carried in public unless there is specific permission obtained. This completely rules out carriage of firearms by the private security personals for the purpose of protecting their clients, the Bollywood stars. When shooting in Jammu and Kashmir, the permission has to be obtained by the state government which also deputes state police as their security cover for the duration of the stay. Of course it comes with a fees.

Then what to the film stars do for private security?

As a protocol, whenever they have to go out in public along with the state police cover, the Bollywood icons have to inform the state police about the event, its location, the duration for which they will be in public etc. etc.

For trips to other parts of the country, particularly for public events, coordination with local police is a must. Generally, the organizers have to inform the local police and obtain permission for bringing in Bollywood icons for any public event. For private events, generally the stars rely on the advice of their private security personals. Their options include taking private Jets to all out-of-Mumbai functions so that no one has information of their arrival, stay and departure. When in hotels, they get an alternate entry and exit facility so that the in-house guests are not inconvenienced to a large extent. Of course, their stay is a kept secret unless otherwise specified by the Bollywood stars themselves.

But for private security some of the bigger stars have bought their own bullet proof and bomb proof luxury sedans.

Mumbai Police says the security cover for actor Akshay Kumar and producers Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt will stay for now as they have received extortion calls and death threats from the underworld.

Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, viewed as iconic figures so they will continue to enjoy round-the-clock security cover, besides a police escort.

Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan were provided additional force in the wake of their comments on the subject of intolerance. Now the Police says the assessment review pointed that they no longer face any threat. While Shah Rukh Khan has been considered a target since 2013, Aamir got an additional cover after he expressed his views on the raging debate over acts of intolerance in November. But now, after the overhaul, only two armed constables will shadow the two actors in two shifts. The armed protocol and armed vehicles have been called back. Aamir Khan has been on and off the police protection. After the first season of Satyamev Jayate, Khan received threats.

So it is in the interest of the state to provide protection to the stars and keep the security review discussions discreet so as not to attract any unwanted attention. Is a public discussion on personal security the right way to go forward?