Maharashtra finally has a plan to prop up its coastal security.
One year after 10 alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorists landed in Mumbai from the sea and held it hostage for 60 hours, Central and state agencies have chalked out a plan to map Maharashtra’s coastline.
The Indian Coast Guard, along with the Indian Navy and Maharashtra police, in a first of its kind programme, has formed a 20-strong team that will use motorcycles to visit at least 48 coastal villages across five districts in the state.
They will begin with Dahanu in Thane district and end at Kiranpani in Sindhudurg. The team’s mission is to create awareness within the fishing community on the renewed threat from the sea, and to formulate preventive contingency plans.
SPS Basra, inspector general of the Coast Guard (West) said: “Security and safety cannot happen only with the efforts of security agencies, we also need the support of our fishing community, which spends so much time at sea.”
Maharashtra currently has over 13,000 fishing boats and over 2,60,000 people engaged in regular fishing.
A Coast Guard officer speaking on condition of anonymity said: “With our current force strength, it is not possible for us to watch every five miles of the coast. Fisherfolk will form a vital component of our new security network.”
Basra said his team will also map fish landing points on the coastline. “There is a need to reduce the number of landing points to improve the quality of surveillance.”
Security agencies are also exploring the feasibility of creating a voluntary force involving fishermen like the one formed in Gujarat. This will create another layer of security and serve as eyes and ears for existing agencies, Basra added.
KL Prasad, commissioner of police (state intelligence department) said: “It is important to create awareness within the fishing community, considering how a fishing boat was hijacked to attack Mumbai.”
Basra said as part of the new system, fishermen will be asked to install a distress alert transmitter in at least one of the boats in their group. “This will allow them to alert the Coast Guard immediately,” he said.
He added that his team has also approached the Telecom Department and cellphone service operators to provide a three or four digit toll-free number for all marine police stations.