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HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Not reading the signs

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 02, 2013
First Published: 23:05 IST(2/7/2013) | Last Updated: 00:00 IST(3/7/2013)

Forewarned is forearmed, unless you happen to be in this neck of the woods. We now learn that the Met office had issued warnings of heavy rain which seem to have been overlooked by the authorities, leading to the catastrophic events in Uttarakhand.

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This latest incident is of a piece with many others that have taken place, whether it deals with terror or natural tragedy.

Usually after a terror attack, the biggest being the Mumbai 26/11, one gets to hear that there were intelligence reports warning of the danger.

The excuse, almost always, is that the reports were not specific. You might well ask that if there is a warning of an imminent attack, then it is up to the authorities to minimise the danger rather than sit back and wait until the specifics are provided.

Even the dinghy in which the terrorists came to carry out the 26/11 attacks was at some point on the radar of the surveillance authorities.

Now, it is no one’s contention that a foolproof method can be framed. But it would seem that there is no point in gathering information in advance if there is nothing that can be done about it.

Should we not have some kind of filter system so that the volume of data is easier to manage? In the case of Maoist attacks, there is nearly always a report after the carnage that the authorities were aware that a strike would take place but did not know where.

While technology plays a very big part in intelligence gathering, there also has to be eyes and ears on the ground. Human intelligence has not been a strong point in our system so far.

Even the US, with all its sophisticated intelligence gathering mechanisms, did rely on human intelligence to hunt down Osama bin Laden.

The loss of lives and property becomes all the more painful with the knowledge that this could have been avoided. We simply cannot go on with this wisdom in hindsight approach.

If there is intelligence of a terror attack or advance warning of a natural calamity, these must be acted on. It may not always work, but it is unpardonable to sit back and do nothing.

After the devastation in Uttarakhand and the terror attacks in Kashmir, the latest in a very long line of such incidents, we simply cannot wait around for the next calamity to take place.


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