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New home minister needs to formulate proper policy framework

comment Updated: May 25, 2014 23:53 IST

The next finance minister will have his task cut out for him. Setting the economy back on track will be an unenviable task.

But, equally, if not so high-profile, will be the role of the next home minister. Even as the BJP was celebrating its win, there were firing across the Line of Control.

The home ministry has for years been somewhat rudderless even though it had a senior minister at the helm. The main problem was that the ministers in charge, starting from the ghastly 26/11 attacks, chose to be reactive rather than proactive.

The hanging of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru can hardly be seen as a move which did anything to lessen terrorism. Rather, they were the culmination of a judicial process. But, what needs to be done is to improve intelligence on the ground.

If this had been done earlier, it is possible that some of the Maoist attacks on the security forces could have been averted. There has been little effort at engaging the Maoists in talks or eliminating them by force.

After the Mumbai attacks, there was a lot of talk of improving coastal surveillance since the terrorists came by sea. There were supposed to be sentinel units along the vast Indian coastline and electronic tagging of fishing and other sea-going vessels.

Nothing has been done. On the intelligence front, there has been much tinkering with the composition of the various organisations dealing with the subject, but the end result has not been productive.

India faces many challenges both from outside its borders and internally. The new home minister has to formulate a proper policy framework and time-bound schedules to get mechanisms in place.

The current policy, if it can be called that, has been ad hoc. Those perpetrating terror acts have taken advantage of this policy drift. One glaring failure was the inability of the Centre to get the states on board in the fight against terror, especially internal militancy.

The other was the fact that the security forces were ill-equipped to take on militants who had superior fire power.

Yet another was the lack of coordination among the various intelligence and anti-terror outfits, a lapse which often led to duplication of work and chaos. The new government has to tackle these issues on a priority basis. The amount of money and manpower which has been pressed into the fight against terrorism has not produced the desired results.

While the new government enjoys a period of great popularity and mandate, it will be able to get things moving on this front without too much hindrance. It is an opportunity which India cannot afford to waste.