Coastal security: Mumbai better prepared after 2008 attacks, but not fully

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2016 10:07 IST
File photo of The Taj hotel in Mumbai which was one of the places targetted by terrorists in 2008. (Hindustan Times)

After Union home minister Rajnath Singh emphasised the need to safeguard India’s coastline, the focus is back on Mumbai’s coastal security — which faced its worst-ever terror attack from the sea.

Ten terrorists who left Pakistan on November 23, 2008, landed in Mumbai around 8.30 pm on November 26, and attacked various places in the city, leaving more than 160 dead and more than 300 injured.

Since 2008, the city police have stepped up coastal security but senior police officers with the city police and experts feel a lot more needs to be done.

For instance, equipment like boats — interceptors, amphibious — break down often, said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.

Also, a demand for new boats is pending with the state government, which means security agencies are still waiting for bigger and better boats to patrol the sea.

Sources said the proposal to either lease or buy new patrol boats from the Goa Shipping Yard is stuck owing to inadequate funds.

The proposal was first mooted in 2012 and has remained on paper ever since.

The number of patrol boats with the port zone is also dwindling after some of the vessels were scrapped owing to their age and performance.

“The number of boats has come down to 20 from 27. However, only around 13 boats are available for sea patrolling on any given day owing to maintenance issues. These boats are divided among the coastal police stations,” said a police officer.

The city police have a jurisdiction spanning 12 nautical miles around the Mumbai coast form the last leg of the three-tier security, after which the coast guard and Indian Navy take over.

There are four police stations across the coast of the city: Yellow Gate, Wadala, Sewri and Mumbai Sagari, a fifth Mumbai Sagari II operates from a bungalow.

However, the biggest complaint among the port zone police is lack of staff and apart from coastal policing — the police in the port zone have to go on bandobast duty and other routine chores.

Also, the Yellow Gate police station, which is the main coastal police station in the city — continues to have jurisdiction over the entire west coast — from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu. For any incident on the west coast, a first information report (FIR) has to be registered with Yellow Gate police station.

Experts on the subject, however, said coastal security is a state subject and not just Mumbai-centric because the country has a vast coastline of more than 7,200km.

“There are chinks in the armour. The government has spent a lot of money and has taken countless efforts to secure the sea, but a lot still needs to be done. We are, however, a lot safer than what we were in 2008,” said D Sivanandhan, former Mumbai police commissioner.

However, Mumbai’s coastal police are at the mercy of agencies like the coast guard and Indian Navy for their training. Sometimes, police swimming pools are used to train the staff.

The training part has suffered largely because the state government’s plan for a coastal academy in Raigad district had to be shelved after the Union government decided to set up the academy in Gujarat once the BJP came to power at the Centre. Of the many problems faced by the Mumbai police while patrolling the sea, sea sickness tops the list.

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