By Deep C:
November 26th – it has been six years since 26/11. Yet, our political leaders and the security establishment don’t seem to have succeeded in plugging the loopholes that caused hundreds of lives to be lost. “The State is sitting on a ticking time bomb”, said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of West Bengal after the Burdwan blast. This is not an issue we can do much about personally. However, we can surely pose a question to the NSA –
Don’t you think we pay you to get us off that bomb, Mr. Doval?
Consider the following:
• While the country was celebrating the Mahatma’s birth anniversary, a bomb went off unintended in Burdwan, West Bengal. In the investigation that has followed, it is clear that a branch of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) had planned a series of ten blasts in Kolkata.
• The Hindu reported on 7th November that “For the first time since the fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim left the country, he has gone off the radar of intelligence agencies…” and “Intelligence sources say his arch rival, gangster Chhota Rajan, is also untraceable.”
• According to the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, 1034 security personnel have fallen prey to Maoist attacks in the last 5 years.
• In September, the al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of al Qaeda’s branch for the Indian subcontinent specifically referring to cells in Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam through a video release.
• According to the Global Terrorist Index 2014 India is the 6th worst terrorist-affected country in 2013 and terrorism in India increased by 70% from 2012 to 2013.
These facts suggest that the counter-terrorism and internal security apparatus in India are failing. Here I draw your attention to five of the most dangerous vulnerabilities and possible remedies (most often they are implicit):
1. Coastal Security- A CAG report pegged the shortfall in sea patrolling between 78 per cent and 91 per cent and night patrolling from zero to 34 per cent of the prescribed frequency and out of the 50 coastal check-posts and coastal outposts completed, 36 remained non-operational as police personnel were not deployed. A number of organizations have been delegated with coastal security such as the Navy, the CISF, the customs and the agriculture departments without clearly cut out objectives. Also, there are less than 100 vessels patrolling more than 7500 kilometers of India’s coastline. It would be better if a single department is vested with the authority and responsibility to oversee and co-ordinate security for the coastal areas (apart from installing the missing infrastructure). It must be remembered that the band of 26/11 terrorists had entered India through the western coast.
2. Radicalization of the youth- The Global Terror Index 2014 says – “Communist terrorist groups are by far the most frequent perpetrators and the main cause of deaths in India. Three Maoist communist groups claimed responsibility for 192 deaths in 2013, which was nearly half of all deaths from terrorism in India… Islamist groups were responsible for around 15 per cent of deaths… Separatist groups including in Assam, Bodoland, Kamtapur and Meghalaya were responsible for 16 per cent of deaths targeting private citizens, police and businesses…” According to reports in the media, the ISI has not only been training and funding Maoists and insurgents; they are also trying to radicalize Muslims. Thus, the government must ensure to that the youth of our country don’t get radicalized by designing welfare schemes and generating educational and employment opportunities, especially in the Maoist infested areas, the North-East and Kashmir.
3. Police- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the police-population ratio in India is 138 for every 10000 people, way behind the minimum of 222 per lakh during peacetime as recommended by the UN. Further a paltry amount of 1.25 rupees per person per day is spent on the police. There is a 23.7% and 18.7 % vacancy in the civil and armed police forces respectively, and 30% of the sanctioned posts in the Intelligence Bureau. With miniscule fractions of the total expenditure on police spent on training and ammunition, the police forces are ill-equipped to deal with emergencies. Thus police reforms addressing these issues must be initiated at the earliest.
4. Borders- a) Even though the Army has been successfully foiling infiltration attempts along the western border, the India- Bangladesh border has a huge porosity due to a common border of 4096 kilometers. It is insufficiently fenced and most of it doesn’t have any natural obstacle running through rivers, lakes, agricultural fields and villages. It is quite logical that while the army is kept busy on one front, terrorists infiltrate through another. Fencing has been slow, even though this issue is often raked up in the parliament due to the possibilities of illegal immigration it allows.
b) A mechanism must be evolved to establish who fires the first bullet in the volatile border areas where Indian and Pakistani forces sit face to face since after every event of cross border firing Pakistan says it’s India who started. This in effect could lead to decreased infiltration efforts that are aided by the Pakistani establishment.
5. The US way- We must learn from the US the art of warding of terrorist attacks the way it has after 9/11. According to an investigative report published in 2010 by the Washington Post, “1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counter terrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the U.S., most of which were formed since 2001. Together, the bureaucrats within these agencies write approximately 50,000 intelligence reports per year on suspected terrorist activities. In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.”