Why do we have human tragedies like the one we witnessed on the Samjhauta Express? Are such tragedies preventable? Are these tragedies our own creation, borne out of neglect, callousness and dishonesty?
The problem is that we have incidents like the one in Panipat because each one of us entrusted with a sacred duty of security and essential services do not carry it out with the degree of responsibility that such duties demand. Failure of performance costs people life-long sufferings, irreparable loss and deprivation.
We do our duties minimally for a monetary return with all the accompanying privileges as a matter of right. We do not perform them with a sense of responsibility and commitment. We focus on the minimum job required. This is the real tragedy.
Can we imagine our soldiers entrusted with the task of protecting our borders deciding to abandon their positions and do what suits them? The point is that we trust them and they live up to our trust. They fulfil their duty with a sense of dedication.
But this not how our civilian rank and file always works. The security lapses while clearing passengers, issuing tickets, checking travel documents, computerising records, screening or frisking are there for all of us to see.
Personnel responsible for the security of the Samjhauta Express did not ‘take ownership’ of their job, even as they fully knew the threat perceptions. They were simply not internally ‘inspired’ to protect. Hence national security was not their priority, their personal interests were. Thus, the scandal of allowing on the train passengers without proper documents, visas, passports, tickets, frisking, searching, etc.
But it was the absence of any preventive measure that is galling. Whether it meant technological installations in anticipation and upgradation (such as CCTVs, scanners, metal detectors, sniffers,), regular reviews on the ground (physical surprise checks, mock exercises, training, operating procedures, encouraging feedback from the rank and file, with follow up actions) — nothing was done.
It is time to replace mere suspensions with marching orders. Perhaps we need to begin with the supervisory ranks and hold them accountable. Their primary responsibility, after all, is to think ahead, analyse, coordinate, check, correct, train, review, provide, listen, inspire and follow up. What were they doing? How much and how often? And in what manner?
We must know these answers to learn so that we can prevent these mindless, pointless tragedies in the future.
Kiran Bedi is an IPS officer and Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.