Mumbai: The Union government as well as the Maharashtra state government had promised a series of measures in the wake of the 26/11 terror attacks that killed at least 166 people to ringfence India’s financial capital from such attacks, but not all of them have been kept.
The plan was to make Mumbai police well equipped to deal with such attacks; creation of Force One, a special commando unit on the lines of the elite National Security Guard, or NSG; and strengthening Mumbai police’s marine wing with modern boats that could patrol the coastline of the city.
Despite failing to keep all the promises, Union home minister P. Chidambaram in a press conference on Thursday claimed: “Mumbai police are better trained, better equipped and better motivated to deal with terror attacks. Yes, there are gaps and we are trying to plug those gaps, and there are gaps in every police force of the world.”
The problems Force One is facing are plenty, ranging from shortage of bulletproof jackets to inadequate numbers of walkie-talkies, absence of night-vision equipment and specialized eyewear to deal with blasts. In the absence of a permanent base, it currently operates from the state reserve police force campus at Kalina, a Mumbai suburb.
The most critical issue is the lack of motivated officers who want to join the force. It has a sanctioned strength of 350, including 47 officers ranging from sub-inspectors to superintendents. However, 20 officer positions in the force are still vacant, even though there is no dearth of enthusiasm for joining the constabulary.
Despite the lack of equipment and other problems, the force is fully motivated and well trained by trainers from Israel, known for its ability to tackle the menace of terrorism, said a senior official from the state police.
To strengthen the patrolling of the coastline, the state police’s marine wing was to get 28 bulletproof speedboats equipped with radar, GPS and marine communication facility. The maximum speed of such boats could be 41 nautical miles. So far, only 12 such boats have been deployed.
The same is true about widening CCTV surveillance. The plan was to install around 2,000 CCTV cameras at crowded places across the city such as railway stations, prominent government offices, schools and colleges, important junctions on arterial roads and even popular eateries. So far, only about 300 such cameras have been installed.
The state has, however, kept its promise for the creation of a specialized intelligence school and a special intelligence officers cadre. This initiative was, however, announced before the 26/11 terror attack, after the July 2006 train blasts that killed 181 people and injured 890. So far, three batches of officers have passed from the intelligence school, set up by the state government in Pune.
At major railway stations such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Churchgate, Dadar, Andheri, Bandra, Kurla and Borivali, metal detectors were installed and home guards were deployed to monitor those, but they have not been used effectively because of the sheer volume of commuters in Mumbai. Mumbai trains ferry about seven million commuters daily.
Not too many detectors are actually used and the security persons manning them are often seen busy in other activities.
On Thursday evening, chief of state anti-terror squad Rakesh Maria asked Mumbaikars to have faith and trust in city police. “We have solved every terror case in the past,” he claimed.
Incidentally, Mumbai police has not been able to solve the murder of crime journalist J. Dey despite a few arrests. Dey was gunned down on 11 June in a Mumbai suburb.