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Just 1 boat for every 100 km

india Updated: Jul 09, 2009 01:19 IST
Presley Thomas

On March 10, 2008, two Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militants had told Jammu and Kashmir police that they were part of a group of eight militants who infiltrated into India using the sea route.

The militants Abdul Majeed and Mohammed Jameel told police that they had crossed over from Karachi to Mumbai.

On November 26 the same year, 10 heavily armed LeT men used the sea route again to enter Mumbai and hold the city to ransom for 60 hours.

Seven months after the Mumbai terror attacks, the country’s coastal security apparatus remains poor.

As HT found out, the Indian Coast Guard — entrusted with patrolling India’s 7,500 km-long coastline has a fleet of only 76 vessels. This means one Coast Guard vessel patrols 98.6 km of the coastline.

What is worse, coast guard officials say that not all their vessels are out at the sea at any given point.

So, how many vessels does that effectively leave for patrolling? Deputy director general of Indian Coast Guards A.

Rajashekar refused to comment. He also did not respond to queries sent via e-mail.

A Coast Guard official, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorsied to speak to the media, said: “To patrol the susceptible 3,300 km coastline in the western region with proximity to Pakistan, we have only 25 vessels, which is one vessel to patrol 132 km.”

“When the government could buy 1,000 aluminum coffins at exorbitant costs after the Kargil war, I do not see a reason why it cannot strengthen the Coast Guard and put a consolidated coastal security apparatus in place,” said Ajay Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management.

“If we consider only the vessels capable of patrolling deep sea, the area a single vessel would be patrolling will increase drastically,” he added.

Also, existing vessels are divided for use in three different regions — in the western region extending from Gujarat to Kerala, the eastern region from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This has resulted into all the three regions being highly under-equipped.

Consider this: The US coast guard, after the 9/11 attack, augmented its fleet and now has one boat for every 16 km of its 19,924 km coastline and Singapore has one boat for every 1.15 km of its 193 km coastline.

Sahni also trashed the proposed unified command system for coastal security, with navy as the nodal agency, terming it cosmetic.

“The only reason for roping in the navy is that it has better facilities for communication. But it is not a force created for policing,” he said.

He added that the Navy should not be involved in coastal security. “It is a task that will blunt the very purpose of the navy. The navy like the Army, should be called in only for emergency duties.”