Six years after 26/11, Mumbai's coastline is still as porous as ever

  • Rahul Mahajani and Saurabh M Joshi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2014 17:29 IST

Six years after the attack on Mumbai, which left 166 dead and 304 injured, the state and Central governments’ plan to set up a marine training institute still remains on paper.

Now, with the change of guard at both the Centre and the state, the proposed state academy to train coastal police, which was upgraded to a national one, is now being planned in Gujarat instead of Maharashtra.

Consider these statistics. The coastal police station of Mumbai police today functions with as little as 34% of the sanctioned manpower. With only 494 of the 1,448 personnel available, the city’s coast, with 66 identified landing points, still remains vulnerable, said police sources.

With politics at play in setting up of the coastal academy, the staff recruited for coastal policing continues to be average at best.

Unrepaired boats, short-staffed force, dependence on Navy or Coast Guards for training, lack of modern equipment, arms and ammunition, and infrastructure are just a few of the problems plaguing the coastal police.

Sources in the police department said the proposal to set up a marine academy at Alibaug in Raigad was drafted immediately after the 26/11 attack. But the proposal faced problems ranging from insufficient land to its acquisition.

The proposal was finally put on the backburner and the state government then made a new proposal — setting up of a national academy at Palghar, which was in Thane district. Around 305 acres of land was cleared for the academy.

At that time, security experts in the state had argued that as the 10 terrorists had entered through the sea and Mumbai was the main target, it was essential to train the police on its own turf.

The porous nature of the 720-km coastline was already exposed in 1993 after the RDX that landed in Raigad via sea made its way to Mumbai and was then used for the blasts.

However, with the change in governments, the fate of training academy also changed boundaries, with the Union home ministry saying that it be set up in Dwarka, Gujarat.

“The quality of the coastal police in the city continues to be average at best. Because of the absence of a training academy, several posts at Mumbai’s coastal police stations have not been filled,” said a senior IPS official, who did not wish to be identified.

The Yellow Gate police station, which covers the eastern coast of Mumbai, has a sanctioned strength of 689 officers and personnel, but only 252 posts have been filled.

Before the attacks, this was the only police station that had jurisdiction in the sea.

After 26/11, another police station, the Mahim Sagari, was formed, which now covers the western coast of Mumbai. But it, too, is in a sorry state with only 242 of the 759 posts filled.

It operates out of the Mahim police quarters, as they have not allotted land for constructing a police station.

The coastal police have jurisdiction spanning 12 nautical miles around the Mumbai coast, form the last leg of the three-tier security.

Sagari II police station has been alloted five rooms in Yogi Nagar in Borivli, which is at least 3km away from the coast.

Sources said the police officials had to run from pillar to post to get the rooms allocated.

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