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Tall promises, little action

india Updated: Feb 23, 2013 02:26 IST
Hindustan Times
hyderabad blasts

As far as meaningless statements go, this one really takes the cake. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, in the aftermath of the twin blasts in Hyderabad, claimed that his ministry had intelligence about a strike but that it was not specific. This must be cold comfort to the kin of the dead and injured. It now transpires that a particular terror group had recceed this area earlier, information of which was available with the State.

It is admittedly difficult to prevent such attacks given the density of population and lax laws. But, what must be worrying people is that the agencies set up for gathering and collating intelligence on terror have failed spectacularly. The National Investigation Agency is one, Natgrid is another and the Organisation for Counter Terrorism Operations is one more. And most of all, the Intelligence Bureau is most culpable. But all of them do not seem to have done much to prevent such attacks through intelligence gathering and dissemination.

The old familiar tussle between the Centre and states, too, seems to contribute to monumental lapses in preventing terror. On the face of it, this would seem to be a failure of intelligence on the part of the Centre. Comparisons are odious but it must be pointed out that both in Britain and the US, there has been no major terror strike after the subway bombing in the former and 9/11 in the latter. This could not have been possible without extensive intelligence gathering and action. This is one major aspect.

The other is the manner in which the law enforcement agencies failed to seal off the site of the crime. Within seconds of the blast in Hyderabad, people were swarming all over the place destroying evidence. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister who should have known better, too, arrived on the scene only to face a hostile mob. Why was he not advised to stay away? And more to the point, why did it not strike him that his presence among the crowds would inflame passions and create further chaos? The fact that the security forces did a very poor job of holding the crowds at bay suggests that they have had little or no training in this basic requirement after a terror attack.

Politicians who should put aside their differences when faced with such a tragedy will, as is their wont, try to make capital out of this. We can only hope that for once this will not be the case.

The home minister has not covered himself in glory in recent times. So far, all he has done is to rub salt into people’s wounds with his careless remarks. Perhaps, he could now sit down with the various intelligence agencies and streamline them, and above all, give them the resources and manpower they need to do the jobs they were set up for. This should become a priority as Parliament goes into session. The State’s claim that it is tough on terror seems completely hollow in the face of its seeming helplessness in the latest outrage.