New Delhi/Chandigarh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Punjab visit was cut short on Wednesday after a "major security lapse" as he was stranded on a flyover for 20 minutes due to a blockade by protesters, prompting the Union Home Ministry to seek an immediate report from the state government and strict action against those responsible.
According to a ministry statement, the prime minister landed this morning at Bathinda from where he was to go to the national martyrs' memorial at Hussainiwala by helicopter and due to rain and poor visibility, he waited for about 20 minutes for the weather to clear out.
"When the weather did not improve, it was decided that he would visit the national marytrs' memorial via road, which would take more than two hours. He proceeded to travel by road after necessary confirmation of security arrangements by the DGP Punjab Police," the statement said.
Around 30 km away from the memorial , when Modi's convoy reached a flyover, it was found that the road was blocked by some protestors.
"The prime minister was stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes. This was a major lapse in the security of the prime minister," the statement said.
After the serious lapse in security, his convoy decided to return without attending an event at a martyrs' memorial, a home ministry statement said.
The prime minister also could not attend a rally in Ferozepur.
The home ministry has asked the Punjab government to fix responsibility for the lapse and take strict action.
It said the prime minister's schedule and travel plan were communicated well in advance to the Punjab government and as per procedure, they have to make necessary arrangements for logistics, security as well as keep a contingency plan ready.
According to the laid down procedure, an alternative route has to be kept in readiness for which clearance of the roads along with deployment of security personnel has to be ensured by the state government, an official said.
In the statement, the home ministry said that in view of the contingency plan the Punjab government has to deploy additional security to secure any movement by road, which were clearly not deployed.
"After this security lapse, it was decided to head back to Bathinda airport," the statement said
The home ministry, taking cognisance of this serious security lapse, has sought a detailed report from the Punjab government.
The incident drew an angry reaction from BJP president J P Nadda who accused the Congress government in Punjab of trying "all possible tricks to scuttle" the prime minister's programmes in the state.
"To make matters worse, (state) CM (Charanjit Singh) Channi refused to get on the phone to either address the matter or solve it.
"The tactics used by the Congress government in Punjab would pain anyone who believes in democratic principles," Nadda said in a tweet.
The BJP chief alleged that the state police was instructed to prevent people from attending Modi's rally and a large number of buses were stranded because of the high-handedness of the police in connivance with the protesters.
In doing so, they did not bother that the prime minister was to pay tributes to Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters, and lay the foundation stone for key development works, the BJP president said.
"By their cheap antics, the Congress government in Punjab has shown that they are anti-development and have no respect for freedom fighters too," he said, alleging that it was done as the ruling party in the state fears a resounding defeat in the upcoming Assembly polls.
"It is sad that the PM's visit to launch development projects worth thousands of crores for Punjab was disrupted. But we will not let such cheap mentality hinder the progress of Punjab and will continue the effort for the development of Punjab," he said.
Punjab and the border areas of Delhi had seen massive protests against the Centre's three farm laws since 2020.
The farm laws were withdrawn only last month after which the farmers lifted their blockades of roads around Delhi.
"The prime minister wanted to meet you all, but because of some reasons, he is not going to be with us today. The PM has said that these programmes have been postponed and not cancelled," Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said at the Ferozepur public meeting.