The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) will now manage the security of the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat’s Kevadia, two officials of the ministry of home affairs said.
The central government has taken the decision in view of inputs that Pakistan-based terror outfits may attempt to attack the statue, the officials said.
The statue and its surroundings are presently secured by the Gujarat police but the central government felt that with its experience in access control and zero-incidents record, the CISF should be given the security cover of the statue, one of the officials cited above said.
The CISF secures over 60 airports in the country along with the Delhi metro and several sensitive government installations in the North Block and South Block such as the space and nuclear facilities, the Aadhaar database centre in Manesar, several energy/oil sector installations and heritage monuments.
It is currently carrying out a security survey of the 597-feet (182 meters) tall statue to decide the number of personnel and equipment required, access points and surveillance of the iconic structure, the official said. The Gujarat government will pay for the CISF cover once the security plan is in place, he added.
The official said that the CISF is likely to take over the security of the statue by March end after the MHA approves the final plan.
In the immediate aftermath of the February 2019 Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir, security agencies had received an email alleging that terror outfits were planning to carry out twin blasts at the site. Subsequent alerts about the site becoming a target of terrorists have been received by agencies in the one and a half year since.
Detailing the security arrangements expected to be put in place, the second official said that quick reaction teams, bomb detection squads, dog squads and spotters in plain clothes will be deployed at the site. “Although the final security plan is in the making, considering the threat and its importance, the Statue of Unity will be guarded by armed commandoes round-the-clock and there will be a proper perimeter security, checking of visitors using modern gadgets,” the official said.
The statue, touted to be the world’s tallest, became a prime tourist attraction following its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2018 to commemorate the on the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The statue, which is twice the size of Statue of Liberty in New York and 40% taller than Spring Temple Budha in Henan (China), recorded a footfall of over 26 lakh visitors in the first year after its inauguration, according to a statement by Gujarat government in October last year.
The complex of the Statue of Unity spreads over 20,000 square meters of land, surrounded by a 12 square km artificial lake.
The Statue is likely to be put under the category of “hyper sensitive” installations on the lines of airports. Currently, there are 26 “hyper sensitive” airports across the country while 56 are “sensitive”.