In the safety net | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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In the safety net

Jolted awake by 26/11, city’s police force is modernising with a vengeance. From building a state-of-the-art control room to procuring bomb disposal robots, they are strengthening security apparatus.

mumbai Updated: Jul 13, 2010 01:43 IST
Shailendra Mohan

Jolted awake by 26/11, city’s police force is modernising with a vengeance. From building a state-of-the-art control room to procuring bomb disposal robots, they are strengthening security apparatus.

A SAFER COASTLINE

The Mumbai coastal police station (Versova Sagri), set up after the 26/11 attacks to guard the city’s 124-km coastline, has procured a speedboat and six ‘Sealegs’ (boats used to patrol close to the coastline).

The Yellowgate police station, in charge of patrolling the eastern coast, also received two speedboats for patrolling the coast from Sewri to Vashi bridge.

In the year ahead, the coastal police stations will get 18 more speedboats and Sealegs.

A proposal for 12 speedboats was placed before the Central Government in December 2008, and till April 2010 the police received three speedboats and seven Sealegs from the Goa shipyard.

Apart from additional patrol boats, a Central Government directive in 2005 stated that the Mumbai coastal police would have six chowkies along the coastline.

The chowkies would be set up at Mahim Reti Bunder, Juhu, Versova, Madh and Gorai. The Mumbai Sagri police got the plots on which to construct the chowkies this March and they should be ready by next year.

The delay was caused primarily because of the lack of suitable land. Also, the strict Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms for constructions near the shore caused hitches.

NSG HUB GETS GOING

Following the terror attacks on November 26, 2008, the government decided to have a National Security Guards (NSG) hub in all major cities. Mumbai was the first to get such a hub, on June 30, 2009.

The NSG, an elite commando force for countering terrorism and hijacks, would have 250 commandos in Mumbai. They would be able to respond to a threat within minutes. They can requisition an aircraft in minutes and begin operations without awaiting an order from Delhi. Mumbai’s NSG unit would respond immediately to a call from the state authorities.

A 23-acre plot at Marol was allotted to the unit and a state-of-the-art training centre is coming up at the complex.

The state government — including the civil and police administrations, as well as the Airports Authority of India and the Army — have extended their assistance in establishing and operationalising the hub. The National Buildings Construction Corporation has undertaken the construction work for a firing range, quarters and other amenities.

The hub should by February 2011.

A NEW POLICE NERVE CENTRE

The Mumbai Police is set to move its control room to a swank, more spacious location at the traffic police headquarters at Worli.

The new control room will measure 5,000 sq ft, and be more staff-friendly than the existing one. It will have features like showers and a changing room, basic requirements for a workplace that is open 24x7. The main control room, headed by an officer of the rank of assistant commissioner of police, is the Mumbai Police’s nerve centre for assimilation and dissemination of information. The new facility will have double the capacity that the existing one has.

It will have two giant screens to monitor every part of the city. The control room will be in a much better position to direct policemen as it will access live feeds from CCTVs that are being installed across the city. The police have held talks with software experts to integrate technical features to ensure a quick response in case of any untoward incident.

Every time ‘100’, or any of the three emergency alert numbers, is dialled, the control room would get a flash on its maze of plasma screens; feedback would follow within seconds. In terms of sophistication and response, it compares with some of the best in the world, given its satellite communications infrastructure. More than 120 officers and constables would work in three shifts around the clock. There will be a parallel control room at the commissioner’s office to handle emergencies.

HI-TECH BOMB DISPOSAL EQUIPMENT

The Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) will receive three Total Containment Vehicles (TCVs) and a special bomb disposal robot by the end of this year.

In 2006, the office of the deputy commissioner of police (HQ 1) invited tenders for the purchase of a TCV. The tender stayed in limbo for almost two years, until the 26/11 attacks. On January 1, 2009, the department wrote to Techno Trade Impex India — which participated in the 2006 tender — if it could supply a TCV at the original rate.

The company agreed.

On March 23, the police wrote to the firm with terms of payment (Rs 6.24 crore) and the delivery period (30 days). On March 28, the Home Department formally recommended the purchase.

The BDDS has already received a sophisticated Mercedes Mobile Detection Van that can scan vehicles within a radius of 100 metres for explosives.

According to BDDS officers, the acquisition formalities are over; only the delivery is pending. The TCV should be here by the end of the year, said an officer.

The officer said, on condition of anonymity, that the TCV is used when a bomb is found in a crowded location or heritage structure. It is used to move the bomb to a safer location for defusing. For example, if a bomb is found at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, it can be moved to Girgaum Chowpatty and then defused. “If during transit, the bomb goes off, the explosion will be contained within the vehicle,” he said.

The TCV will decrease the risk of injuries to civilians and structural damage to buildings.

SAFER PORTS

The Customs Department would get at least three hi-tech container scanners that can detect firearms and explosives smuggled into the city in the guise of genuine imports.

A need was felt for the scanners after the 26/11 attacks.

Customs officials said only Nhava Sheva port, which handles 20,000 containers a day, has two such scanners — a ‘walk through’ type and a mobile one. A container can pass through the former, while a mobile scanner needs to be taken around the container.

A senior Customs official said, on condition of anonymity, that there is a dire need for such scanners at Mumbai port and the Mulund Container Freight Station (CFS), which together handle 5,000 containers a day.

Neither place has a scanner.

The scanners are likely to be delivered within six months.

Officials said the scanners are important as it is not possible to manually check each container.

“On an average, we only check 5 to 10 per cent of a container,” said an official.

The scanners would be part of the Risk Management System (RMS) initiated by the Central Board of Excise and Customs a few years back.

The RMS is for fast-track clearance of containers involving selective screening of only high-risk cargo.

‘Our forces are well-trained, are improving’

Interview Rajnish Seth,
Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order)

Rajnish Seth, joint commissioner of police (law and order), told Hindustan Times that policing in Mumbai is undergoing a sea change. From CCTVs at important locations to the procurement of modern technology, a lot is being done to make the city secure..

How does the police plan to make Mumbai safer?

Several steps are being taken to improve safety and security. We are strengthening the Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) and procuring more combat vehicles. We are procuring firing simulators that will help our men get more firing practice and which could be of great help in an emergency situation. We are also working towards making our coastal areas safer and buying more patrol boats.

There was talk of installing CCTVs across Mumbai.

We are not just installing CCTVs, but also getting a new control room with state-of-the-art technology to help us keep an eye on the city and take decisions on force movement. We are also getting more bomb squads.

Was 26/11 the catalyst for all these changes?

There is no catalyst in such matters; security improvements are a continuous process. Our QRTs are already well equipped and can deal with any kind of terror situation. Our forces are well trained and we are working on getting even better.

The plans are fine, but will all this really work out in a year’s time, considering the kind of red-tape we have?

The government is acting fast. We have already acquired a lot of the things we needed. Our security apparatus, which is continuously improving, will be better in a year’s time.