Even a year after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, the city’s coastline is still vulnerable. The Customs department, which is involved in the country’s coastal surveillance, still does not have a foolproof plan for coastal security.
The lack of a comprehensive coastal security plan in the current scenario is evident from the minutes of the annual All India conference of chief commissioners and Directors General (of Customs and Central Excise) held recently. Hindustan Times has a copy of the minutes.
“The Central Board of Excise and Customs emphasized that the Customs department cannot shy away from its important role in border/coastal security insofar as trans border movement of goods is concerned,” the minutes stated.
It added, “Growing and new challenges in the field of smuggling of dugs, foreign and Indian currency, arms and ammunitions, having a bearing on national security have emerged as greater cause of concern.”
The minutes mentioned that there was an urgent need to redefine Customs role in coastal security through optimum use of available staff and equipment. “The minutes indicate that the department is not yet fully prepared to fight the current security threats,” a senior Customs official said.
Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) spokesperson Hemambika Priya said Customs is not involved with security. “It is only involved in securing revenue of the country,” she said.
She said the department is in the process of upgrading infrastructure to combat smuggling.
“We are not mandated to go and arrest a foreign national. We can only do it if he is smuggling something,” she said.
Other senior Customs officials said terrorists who invaded Mumbai had brought arms and ammunitions with them. “Hence, the department cannot sideline itself from such instances as it involves smuggling of arms and ammunition,” an official said, requesting anonymity.