Security reform and tackling neighbourhood threat
What the Mumbai attacks on July 13 pointed to more than anything else was a lapse in security. Worse still was the admission of Chidambaram to the complete “absence of intelligence” on the terrible incident.
As far as India is concerned, from 26/11 to 13/7, there lies a vast valley of vulnerability.
Possibly there was pressure on Pakistan and other vile elements that it hosts in its toxic swamps that gave some reprieve in the interim months to the financial metropolis.
That they will strike is well known – we all heard Hafiz Saeed’s declaration of Ghazwa-e-Hind. Through his pronouncement, he promises to enter and capture India through the gate of Kashmir.
Look next also at the disturbing confession of Chidambaram about home-grown terror groups which have long out-grown their nascence.
The frightening reality of us being sitting ducks cannot shroud our lack of choice in the euphemism of ‘indomitable spirit’ of Mumbai. Really, this is not akin to London spirit during the Blitz. Rather, this is about our ramshackle state of preparedness in the face of an unrelenting enemy.
Yes, our reaction to a tragedy may have improved, but our ability to foil vicious designs as means of defence remains intolerably inadequate. Given the spate of terror attacks as also Naxal surge, India is undoubtedly a soft target.
Despite the setting up of NIA, strengthening of Unlawful Activities Act, setting up of NSG hubs and bigger budgetary allocations, our policing is not yet up to the mark. Our ground intelligence is even paltrier.
Examine our recent record, and it will make the most rhino-skinned squirm. We shared a ‘Most Wanted’ list with Pakistan that had two people residing in India and a third who has been as dead as a nail for long. Clearly, our intelligence agencies are still not talking to each other enough or sharing notes to a point wherein there is a seamless information flow.
In the Kim Davy case as well, our cops were in such a hurry to embark on a ‘phoren’ trip to Denmark, that they forgot the most vital document that needed to carry. An updated arrest warrant!
The fact that they had a warrant albeit an expired one not only puts the focus on our incompetence, but also makes us a laughing stock around the world and only undermines our credibility.
As a first, the very basic requirement is that our police forces must be offered attractive remuneration packages to draw the best of talents. The Army has made some positive moves in this direction recently. Our protectors need to be well armed and foot soldiers need to be trained to pick information at the grassroots.
A dissatisfied cop will never be motivated enough to stake his life for a cause. In fact the concept of Big City Policing must be introduced so that the top targets are differently secured compared to smaller towns. Even if this means expenditure on chopper patrolling, deploying missile covers and acquiring expensive gadgets, it must be incurred.
In the kind of situation we are in, we can’t afford to have tenders for sophisticated weapons and CCTVs stuck in red tape.
The Underworld that was lying low for a while is re-grouping and has become potent again. The murder of Mid-Day journalist J Dey points to that. The nexus between politicians, police and criminals needs to be smashed once and for all. Only then can we loosen the grip of mafia.
Considering that we have less than friendly neighbours encircling us, we need to redouble efforts on strengthening security to take on the enemy within and outside.
We need to have an improved border management and coastal vigilance system and there must be a systemic check to ensure that illegal immigrants don’t acquire documents to prove their Indian citizenship dubiously.
Most importantly, citizens must be educated and involved. A billion cautious pair of eyes and ears can become our strongest armour. It is easier for a countryman living in some remote descript area to pick a careless talk or suspicious movement than all of our forces combined. A loyal citizen could be present anywhere and everywhere, even in areas where hoodlums take shelter. The support of the Muslim community in particular must be assiduously sought.
In the Pune blast case, the owner of the German Bakery was given information yet he failed to react even though a bag was lying in his restaurant unattended for long.
For terrorists who have been caught, there must be a speedy trial and speedier execution of justice. Why should we spend money on these people, protecting their high security jails?
Above all, accountability needs to be fixed. We must know where the buck stops.
In such a scenario, being the Home Minister can be the worst job in the Cabinet. But it is a job that still needs to be done. For it is amongst the most vital for us to survive and thrive.
(The article is a part of the Looking Ahead series.)