LUCKNOW: Anand Lal Banerjee, the Superintendent of Police - Rural, Gorakhpur in 1985, who was also security in-charge of the Prime Minister's visit, sat on then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's seat in the special Air Force aircraft to have its feel while inspecting it during its small stop in the town.
Speaking to IANS, Banerjee, a 1979-batch IPS officer, who retired as the Director General of Police (DGP), said: "It was the cold February 1985 morning. I was posted as SP-Rural in Gorakhpur, which was then a huge district and sent three MPs to Parliament."
Recalling the visit of Rajiv Gandhi in the eastern town of Uttar Pradesh, Banerjee said: "It was only five-six years that I had joined the service and I was made the security in-charge for then Prime Minister's visit for campaigning in Assembly polls."
He said at that time, there was no Special Protection Group (SPG), which now looks after the security of the Prime Minister and other VVIPs.
Security arrangements would be very tight in those days as barely seven months ago, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had taken place.
"Joint Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) used to travel with the Prime Minister to look after his security."
Reminiscing the early days of his career, the former IPS officer said: "I had not been exposed to VVIP visits until then, but yes I had managed local elections and handled VIP visits."
A day before the arrival of the Prime Minister, elaborate security protocols, liaison visits, a rehearsal, briefings and checks for explosives or inimical persons were undertaken in detail, he said.
"Every officer was given a specific task and was made responsible for its smooth conduct."
Banerjee said Rajiv Gandhi was scheduled to land at the Air Force station here and then he would take a helicopter to Basti and address a meeting there before returning to Gorakhpur.
"As I was the in-charge of the Gorakhpur air field, I was supposed to secure the perimeter and the airfield. I ensured there is no untoward access to the base and that the flight is properly guarded," he said, adding that his duty also included checking all vehicles coming on the tarmac to ensure safety within the air field."
On February 11, 1985 morning, the Boeing aircraft of the Rajiv Gandhi landed here, and then he left for Basti in a helicopter.
"After he left, I was the senior-most officer left at the airport along with an Air Force official, who was guarding the plane along with our five men. So, I took all my cautions to ensure that nothing goes unchecked around the aircraft. After securing the entire area, I realised that I have not checked the aircraft in which the Prime Minister was travelling."
Banerjee then requested the Air Force official to accompany him to the aircraft so that he could check it.
"We boarded the aircraft. I then checked it from the cockpit to the tail. After checking the aircraft, I realised that it was a completely different aircraft with separate areas for cabin, conference area with a seating capacity of around 10 people, etc. In the cabin there was a large chair for the Prime Minister. I sat in the chair and took a feel of it. The chair was very uncomfortable," he said laughing.
After inspecting the plane, they came down and soon after the Prime Minister returned and left for Jaipur.