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Army chief says sorry to Jairam

Gen. Singh, Ramesh

New Delhi, Jan. 13: Army chief General Bikram Singh has apologised to rural development minister Jairam Ramesh after his motorcade held up the Congress leader in New Delhi’s traffic.

Ramesh, who was criticised by his party for praising Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and its campaign against the “lal batti” (red beacon) culture, had said last Thursday that he would write to defence minister A.K. Antony to reduce the VIP security around service chiefs.

Ramesh had been held up in traffic that was stopped by military police to allow the army chief’s convoy to pass.

“I am aware of this (talk about) lal batti. As soon as I learnt about this (inconvenience for Ramesh) I called up the minister and apologised to him,” Gen. Singh said today.

“But, you see, I am categorised as zulu-plus (given Z+ category security) that means there is a certain minimum number of men (who have to escort),” he added.

“But I have asked the military police not to be involved. The civilian police must deal with this matter. It is a civilian matter, law and order being a state subject.”

All chiefs, and some former chiefs and officers of the Indian Army, are entitled to Z-plus security since a former chief, the late General A.S. Vaidya, was assassinated by Khalistani militants in Pune after his retirement in 1986.

Gen. Vaidya was the army chief in 1984 when the Golden Temple was stormed to clear it of militants.

In January last year, retired Lt General K.S. Brar was attacked by militants in London. Brar was the commander of the troops that stormed the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar.

Ramesh, miffed by the security for VIPs, something the AAP rails against, had said there was a case for reducing the number of cars in the convoys of the President and the Prime Minister.