The question of defense
Are we ready to prevent another 26/11?
VIEWPOINT BY ANIL ANAND
The introspection time is here. Three years down the line after that dreaded terrorist attack on Mumbai, it is time for the nation’s political set up and the security apparatus to sit back and mull over: Are we prepared to prevent or repulse such an attack without causing any collateral damage?
If the prevailing ground realities are any indication, it still seems to be a fry cry to claim that the existing system is impregnable. Despite the reasonably good efforts and planning done by the Centre in the aftermath of 26/11, the situation on ground seems to be far from satisfactory. The main concern was and still remains to be the lack of coordination among the various agencies related to intelligence gathering and counter-militancy operations, be it in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East or elsewhere in the country.
None other than the former Home Secretary Mr Gopal Pillai has left no one in doubt about India’s preparedness on counter-terrorism front. The plain-speaking former bureaucrat minced no words when he stated in an interview recently that the country was still not in a position to prevent another 26/11. That should be alarming and eye opener as well.
Mr Pillai’s frank observation brings one to the vital question as to what has the ruling system achieved during the last three years, of which he himself was the central pivot, to thwart any breach of internal security? The existing administrative set up, both at the Centre and in states, must sit up and take his statement with a pinch of salt. Where have we erred and why have we failed to create a foolproof system?
The answers to these vital queries are not easy to come. But one thing remains clear, despite a push by the Centre (read Home Ministry) by ensuring uninterrupted supply of funds for upgradation of the security network, the official apathy at various levels remains intact and has become the sole cause for lack of coordination and non-seriousness to implement plans on the ground.
A glaring example of this lack of coordination at various levels was witnessed in the creation and functioning of the National Investigative Agency (NIA). From its conception to creation, it has been mired in controversies. The conflicting interests once again came into open when the NIA was investigating the Delhi High Court bomb blast case and came in direct clash with Delhi Police on the arrest of some persons belonging to Kishtwar area of Jammu and Kashmir. The investigations are still inconclusive and doubts are being expressed on whether the case is going the Malegaon blast investigations in which after years of confinement in jail nothing had been found against the accused.
There has been lot of emphasis on manning security on Indo-Pak International Border and Line of Control (dividing Kashmir on the two sides). But the 26/11 attack had exposed chinks in the country’s coastal security. Ambitious plans were drawn both by the Centre and some of the coastal states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, from where Pak-trained terrorists had intruded, but on ground not much seemed to have been achieved.
Despite the Home Ministry speedily clearing proposals to acquire high speed boats to guard the coastlines, it has not achieved the desired results. Take this to buttress home the point; out of 19 speed boats available with Mumbai coastal police, seven are not operating for lack of trained hands. “The recruitment is still in progress,” is how the local officials seek to sweep the issue under the carpet. This is three years after the ghastly attack.
Manpower and acquiring communication equipments still remain to be the key areas in which security apparatus of the country continues to falter. A detailed analysis of the available official data related to the security establishment for 2009 and 2010 exposes gaping holes in the demand and supply chain. There are five lakh vacant posts in state police forces and about 61000 such vacancies in the paramilitary forces. These figures were reflected in the annual report for 2009 of Bureau of Police Reforms Department (BPRD) of the Home Ministry. An update is still to come in the public domain.
A deficient police infrastructure and lack of professionalism to deal with or prevent 26/11 type situations or even the terrorist or Left Wing Insurgent attacks, reflects a rather sad state of affairs. On innumerable occasions, the security forces became sitting ducks simply either they were ill equipped or ignored the standard operating procedures to be followed to prevent such attacks.
According to official figures 210 police stations in the country are without a telephone connection and another 46 without a much needed wireless facility. More shockingly, 34 police stations have neither of these facilities vital to maintain communication links. It is simply unthinkable in the 21st century but it remains a fact.
There are innumerable reports of government appointed committees on police reforms and other related issues that are gaining dust. Why is there a scare in the name of bringing in police reforms? Veteran cop and former Delhi Police Commissioner Mr Ved Marwah rightly feels that the political system lacks will to implement these much needed reforms. On the contrary they are also gripped by a sense of insecurity as there is a strong feeling among the political class that any such move will loosen their hold on the police officials.A committee headed by former senior police officer Mr P S Bawa had in 2001 recommended measures for immediate up-gradation of the equipment and weaponary to be provided to the police forces. He conducted a study on minimum equipment and supply standards for different categories of police stations. A decade after Mr Bawa submitted his findings to the BPRD the report has not seen light of the day.
A 2010 annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau brings out the fact that only 12 out of every 100 policemen have a motor vehicle facility and only 13 out of 100 police personnel get a walkie-talkie. It is a criminal neglect in this era of ultra-modern communication network and skills. The failure to implement positive changes in the police infrastructure has obviously made the country far more vulnerable to terror attacks. As per the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the global terror tracking agency, while India in 2009 was second to Pakistan in number of terror attacks in South Asia, it stood third after Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010. Slow pace of reformative action on the police force front, both in terms of handling a situation and equipping them, has on many occasions led to total unprofessional approach being adopted in tackling a situation. On the third anniversary of 26/11, it is the time to wake up. A better equipped and a more human security/police force should be the goal to be achieved before its next anniversary.
(Anil Anand is Greater Kashmir New Delhi Bureau Chief)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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