New Delhi: India is facing a serious threat of chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) attack from terrorist groups but the government has not shown itself to be determined enough to counter this on a priority basis, according to a joint study by the Royal United Services Institute and the Observer Research Foundation.
The report said the country does not have a dedicated body to deal with such threats. “The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) forms an important backbone in responding to CBR incidents, man-made or otherwise, (but) its focus remains on a post-disaster response,” the study said. NDMA Act was enacted in 2005 with the Prime Minister as its head.
Small- and medium-sized industries are unwilling to invest in security as CBR threats are essentially perceived as a future problem, the study said.
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The study highlighted 54 incidents, including the release of hexacyclo-pentadiene that injured 200 people in Kochi in 1985. A fire in a refinery caused by a gas leak in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in 1997 claimed 60 lives and injured 31 others. In 2003, the proscribed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed a woman in Srinagar by injecting her with cyanide, having accused her of being a police informer. Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi attacked five women with acid for not wearing veils in Srinagar in 2001.
Large quantities of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in making explosives and meant for Maoists, have been seized, the study said. A dengue outbreak in Delhi that killed 423 people in 1996 is among the 15 biological incidents listed in the study.
“There is a possibility that other incidents similar to the LeT cyanide attack have taken place but have not been tagged as CBR attacks, given the lack of an exclusive CBR incident reporting mechanism,” it said.
“The lack of a central database containing updated information on incidents, intelligence or reports of CBR terrorist attacks, sabotage, material thefts, intentional misuse or illegal trading has been found as a major lacuna in India’s current approach,” it said.
National CBR knowledge centres, including the Defence Research and Development Establishment in Gwalior and the department of biotech, have?been underutilized. There have been no joint projects on security undertaken by them, according to the study.
NDMA has been emphasising natural disasters because of their frequency. “Response from states to NDMA activity on CBR issues is inadequate,” the study said.