It could not have been a worse start to his innings as home minister for Sushilkumar Shinde. And that too coming in the wake of the disastrous power outage under his watch in his last ministry. The Pune blasts mercifully did not claim any casualties but are a chilling reminder that terror is far from over in India despite the relative calm in recent times. That Mr Shinde was to visit the city though he cancelled it suggests that the message that the miscreants wanted to convey was that he will not have an easy ride. The Pune police commissioner has said that prima facie there is no terror angle, but this should serve to review our preparedness in the eventuality of this being a dry run for a bigger outrage.
After the catastrophic Mumbai terror attacks, the home ministry had put in place several measures to tackle terror. Indeed, home ministry officials claim that several attacks were averted by these efforts. We have several agencies to look into different aspects of terror, the National Investigation Agency, the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing to mention some. But what seems to be lacking whether dealing with external security threats or internal insurgencies like that of the Maoists is coordination among all of them and a certain amount of intelligence sharing. It has been argued long and loud by experts that we need much greater technological input in the fight against all forms of terror and certainly much greater human intelligence. The lack of coordination again between the Centre and states has also created needless opportunities for those wishing to perpetrate terror. For this, the Centre alone cannot be blamed. The states, in particular some chief ministers, become very turf conscious and prickly when the Centre tries to suggest ways in which to deal with, say the Maoist menace. They feel that this is encroaching on their powers, quite ignoring the fact that security cannot be held hostage to Centre-state equations.
Another aspect which emboldens purveyors of terror is the painfully slow investigative process. The kneejerk reaction is often to round up some suspects and then find that the cases against them hold no water. This has hampered the investigation process considerably. There is rarely any methodical investigation into these incidents, leading to a lack of faith in the whole system on the part of the common man. It will take the new home minister a while to come to grips with his portfolio. Meanwhile, had the systems in place been effective, the investigation process would have been well underway in the Pune blasts. But as of now, officials are still debating whether this is a conspiracy or not, whether it is a terror attack or not. And in the process, precious time has been lost once again putting the citizen in further peril.