Staying in a house where one window opens to a view of the Taj and another to the Trident, I felt as if the 26/11 attacks were happening in my backyard.
I wondered whether it would have been different if Mumbai had been better prepared.
It is a fad to believe that we’d have it good but for a monster called ‘government’.
There is more to government than politicians, bureaucrats and police officers. Let us not forget the policemen who gave their lives to nab Mohammad Ajmal Kasab. Or the commandos, the courts, all of which are part of the government.
Government is not India’s problem, governance is.
That we were not prepared on November 26, 2008, goes without saying. Imagine a bunch of men landing at Cuffe Parade with AK47s and grenades. They walked to Colaba Causeway, opened fire at Leopold Café, went to the Taj, Trident and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and killed people.
It is easy to blame the police and lack of intelligence, but what about we, the people? How many of us spotted them? We are casual and not security-minded. We love our comfort zones.
There is talk of an intelligence failure. No agency in the world can predict such an attack. What we’ll get is a sketchy report suggesting that some miscreants may land in Mumbai and create trouble. The trick is to analyse these bits of information, visualise scenarios and build a strategy to combat the danger. And then be able to deal with a scenario that pans out differently.
It requires a different system of management than what we have. It is not enough to blame politicians. I have yet to meet a politician who opposes a stronger policing system.
In a prosperous new India, creating a larger police force is not a financial problem. What needs to change is our perception of the policeman’s job.
Our system does not provide any incentive to ministers and administrators to take bold decisions. Fortunately, models of better governance are available. Any major city in the US will have a control room that monitors crowd behaviour and is perpetually ready to face combat situations. Why not Mumbai?
Our policing is still embedded in a lathi-revolver-Criminal Procedure Code scenario.
Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution visualising every situation imaginable at the time. But reality today is different from their wildest dreams.
The Constitution did not provide for a position for a leader of exceptional quality to head the government as in the US. This has diluted India’s decision-making apparatus. It is no wonder that our politicians have no faith in parliamentary debates; every issue is fought over in the streets.
We are fortunate to have the freedom to pursue our dreams. What we do not believe is that each one of us is responsible for ensuring better governance.
Dr Mukhopadhyay is a former additional chief secretary (home), Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal.