Photo: AP
Photo: AP

11 years since 26/11, India yet to address loopholes in security

  • Mumbai Police claims it was fully equipped to ‘handle situations like the 26/11 terror attack’
  • India’s most ambitious counter-terrorism project, Natgrid, will come into operations only by end of 2020

NEW DELHI : More than a decade after 10 Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists breached security barriers to lay a three-day siege on Mumbai, hitting various locations in the country’s business capital, killing 166 people, and injuring more than 300, India has yet to address gaps in its internal security apparatus.

The Centre is pulling out all stops to bolster India’s coastal security, the absence of which came into question after the terrorists entered Mumbai through the sea route. However, one of the Union government’s most ambitious counter-terrorism projects, the National Intelligence Grid or Natgrid, has yet to see the light of day.

Natgrid is designed to function as an integrated intelligence grid connecting databases of core security agencies of the country, including all police departments, to collect comprehensive patterns of intelligence that can be readily accessed by intelligence agencies.

This will come into operation only by the end of next year, the Union home ministry has said in the ongoing winter session of Parliament.

“Back then, there was a lot of intelligence that was ignored when 26/11 happened. It was clear that we needed an airtight intelligence network and that takes time. There are new rules in terrorism everyday and we are still slow in keeping pace with that. Why do you think Pulwama (the attack by a suicide bomber in Kashmir, which claimed 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force) happened? We need a robust intelligence network," a former central government official who had served during the United Progressive Alliance government’s tenure said on condition of anonymity.

Mumbai Police commissioner Sanjay Barve on Monday said that the city police was fully equipped to “handle situations like the 26/11 terror attack". However, experts said that India’s anti-terror forces needed to keep pace with evolving terror designs.

“A 26/11 need not happen again at Mumbai. There are a large number of smaller towns that are not under surveillance or a security cover of the scale of big metros. One more innovative siege will be enough to shake us out of our nonchalance but only for a while. We assume that the enemy will take the three options we have but he always takes the fourth one we aren’t prepared for," said D.P.K. Pillay, research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a Delhi based think tank.

In the current fiscal, 84.80 crore has been allocated to Natgrid, with a total of 53 positions being filled against the 119 sanctioned posts.

“The progress of Natgrid is reviewed from time to time at an appropriate level in the central government. Natgrid has developed application software for proof of technology (POT), which is yet to be fully rolled out. Natgrid Solution is planned to go live by 31 December 2020," the home ministry informed the Lok Sabha.

On 26 November 2008, 10 LeT terrorists hijacked a fishing vessel in the deep seas, breached security barriers and sneaked in through the porous Mumbai coastline. The first gunshots rang out at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station at 9.21pm. The next three days claimed the lives of 146 civilians and 20 security personnel across CST, Taj Mahal Hotel, Cama Hospital, Leopold Café, Nariman House and the Oberoi-Trident Hotel, while more than 300 were injured.

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