Mumbai: Wednesday’s Mumbai blasts have an unusual casualty. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane will skip its maiden Mumbai flight and will instead fly back to Seattle from Delhi, where it landed on 13 July.
National flag carrier Air India will receive Dreamliner, one of the world’s largest aircraft by seating capacity, shortly. Typically, ahead of commercial operations, plane makers fly the aircraft to the main airports of the country where their customers are based. In this case, Dreamliner planned to touch down in Delhi and Mumbai.
Dinesh Keskar, Boeing Co. of the US’ India president, said security concerns were not the reason behind the change in plan. “It’s about cultural sensitivity. I am a Maharashtrian; I know the pain of the city that has witnessed three blasts. I can bring Dreamliner on another day,” Keskar said.
The three blasts have put hospitality companies on high alert.
Most city hotels have tightened security. They are now demanding photo-identity proof of guests and even their chauffeurs entering the hotel. Till now, only cars were checked for any hidden explosives.
Hospitality firms and airlines are not yet seeing cancellations as a fallout of the blasts.
“It will... have an immediate impact but the effect will depend on how we can, in diplomatic channels, convince the major source countries that India is a large country in which most other destinations are not affected,” said M.P. Bezbaruah, honorary permanent representative of the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“It is also to be understood that terrorism is a global issue that needs to be sternly handled rather than issuing advisories against travelling to India,” he said.
On Thursday, it was business as usual on the streets of the maximum city.
The benchmark equity index of the Bombay Stock Exchange, Sensex, rose 0.12% or 22.18 points to close at 18618.2 points and the bond market rallied. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd held its scheduled press conference on first quarter earnings at its headquarters on Thursday evening.
Schools and colleges across the city were open. Dr Antonio Da Silva High School at Dadar near Kabutar Khana in central Mumbai, where one of the three blasts took place, however, had to be shut only because the area was cordoned off by the police.
Owen Pereira, caretaker of the school, said part of the school building has been damaged but it will be open on Friday. “Kahe ko darne ka, yeh toh Mumbai me hota hi rehta hai (Why should we fear, such things keep happening in Mumbai always),” said Pereira.
Anuj Puri, chairman and country head at real estate consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle India, in a note released on Thursday said Mumbai is one of the most unprotected cities in the country and it does not function as a unit but rather as a collection of mini-agglomerations.
“Demand for office space in and around the most vulnerable locations are usually impacted for some period and despite this, areas such as Nariman Point and BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) see no discernible drop in occupancy,” he said. “This has more to do with the inalienable business value of these locations rather than the so-called indomitable spirit of the city.”
Frequent terror attacks will also lead to the need for terrorism insurance for property and individual life, disability, expenses incurred during hospitalization or damage to motor vehicle, according to Rajive Kumaraswami, head of risk and reinsurance at ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd.
For property-related risks, terrorism pool having a per risk capacity of Rs 750 crore with predetermined rates, terms and conditions exists.
“Whether the rates would harden as a consequence to this incident is difficult to determine at this stage. It will be viewed by underwriting committee of the pool after which the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority’s approval will be sought. For risks that are beyond the pool’s capacity will be referred to the international reinsurance players,” he said, adding that the rates in the global market can harden.
Security experts said India is yet to launch coordinated efforts to counterterrorism.
Immediately after 26/11, when terrorists held the city to ransom for three days, India had proposed a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) on the lines of the US to co-ordinate between various internal security agencies and a National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) for effective surveillance.
“Even after two-and-half years, it has not managed to secure necessary approvals from the cabinet committee on security,” said an internal security expert, requesting anonymity.
He said the US could nab the 9/11 culprits in just five weeks as it could launch co-ordinated interagency approach, but India could not do it even after years.
“It is not that intelligence agencies of the US are better than that in India. It is all about how you make structural changes to these intelligence agencies,” he said.