Maharashtra’s porous coastline has once again become a cause for concern. According to sources in the state home ministry, 70% of Maharashtra’s coastline is still vulnerable and can be used as landing points by infiltrators at any time. This comes after security agencies recently assessed coastal security after crew members of a Pakistani boat allegedly blew it up when it was intercepted about 356km from Porbandar in Gujarat.
Sources in the state home ministry said it is the state’s 1,020km-long creek line that poses more of a threat to coastal security than the 720km-long coastline.
This is because the creek line is diverse and criss-cross according to the regional dimensions, making it difficult to keep a track of vessels, sources said. Also, most of the creeks have a mangrove cover, which lowers visibility, making them easy hideouts.
There are nearly 15 agencies, including the navy, coast guard, Maharashtra maritime board, fisheries and the coastal police that monitor coastal security. Each agency, however, has its own method of monitoring the coast, and little has been done to ensure smooth coordination between all of them. A parent body, which can proactively head all the concerned coastal security agencies, is the need of the hour, said police sources.
“The lack of understanding is evident with two of the most important sea security agencies coming to different conclusions on the critical issue of the number of landing points in the state. While the navy said there are 525 such vulnerable points in the state, the coast guard has identified over 720 of them,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.
The coastal police stations in Maharashtra, the last ring of coastal security, have 69 boats for patrolling, out of which only 50% are used to patrol the long coastline. The shortage of boats makes patrolling the creeks impossible, said sources.
The police have no option but to take the help of local fishermen. The officers have formed several committees comprising fishermen and khalasis (boatmen), who have become the eyes and ears of the coastal police.
“We conduct routine meetings to spread awareness among them so that they report suspicious activities in the sea. They are well aware of all the operations that take place at sea. Recently, a workshop was also conducted for statewide coastal police stations to clarify their operational capabilities. It was attended by 43 coastal police stations, the navy and coast guard officials,” said a police officer.
Strengthening coastal security
* The vital step of implementing a color coding system for boats is yet to be implemented
* According to the scheme, boats from each coastal state will have a different color, which will easily help the agencies to identify the state to which the boat belongs
* The state had decided to issue biometric identity cards to all fishermen post 26/11 terror attacks
* These cards will be checked by the agencies when the boats are intercepted at sea
* While only a few such biometric cards have been issued till date by the fisheries department, no card readers have been made available to the agencies, which has left a loophole in the system.