For a section of the politicians in India, security is certainly an issue. No wonder, a good number of them are turning to bulletproof their vehicles as they join the rough and tumble of LS polls.
The new-age bulletproof vehicles are capable of withstanding firing from AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons. This apart, their flat tyres can run for 50 km at a speed of more than 50 km.
Sunchit Sobti, director of Jalandhar-based Laggar Industries Ltd, said: “This financial year, we have got about 80 orders from politicians as it is poll year. Besides, some businessmen have also placed orders. At times their vehicles are also used by the politicians for political purposes. The cost to bulletproof a vehicle starts from Rs 10 lakh and goes up to Rs 1 crore, depending on what one wants to get fitted.”
“A bulletproof glass of 30 mm to 40 mm costs between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 6 lakh, while bulletproof tyres (tyres that aren’t punctured by bullets) cost around Rs 3 lakh, as they are imported from Germany,” he said, adding: “This year almost all the vehicles which have come for bullet-proofing are Toyota Fortuners besides a few Ford Endeavours. The craze is for Fortuners this season as these SUVs look good and get easily bulletproofed.” The changes are made to windshields, windowpanes, side, top and bottom steel sheets which are replaced with bulletproof windows made with layers of dense ballistic glass and opaque armour made of high-hardened ballistic steel, ballistic nylon among other material. Such equipment enhance the weight of the vehicle by a few hundred kg; at times over a tonne, said a source.
Sobti of Lagger Group, which has been making bulletproof vehicles and equipment since 1989 and has supplied to the Royal Bhutan Army besides many state governments, says, “In the 2009 General Elections, some 10 of Ambassadors, Pajeros, Land Cruisers, Scorpios and Tata Safaris were bulletproofed. In 2004 elections, some five to six vehicles were bulletproofed. The demand has increased manifold.”
Several leaders from Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh have taken bulletproof vehicles. Also, vehicles of SP and BSP politicians from UP have been bulletproofed recently. Not left behind are leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Sobti adds, “It takes two to three months to bulletproof a vehicle. Most orders have now been delivered.” However, he declined to name politicians who placed orders. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs had shown its inability to supply the states with bulletproof cars.