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Lessons not learnt, city at risk

mumbai Updated: Jul 19, 2011 00:26 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
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The city has witnessed the maximum number of terrorist attacks compared to any other city in India. However, the government and the police force are still to learn their lessons.

Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is desperately short-staffed, with only 50% of the sanctioned strength of 730 personnel on board.

"These are grossly inadequate numbers to keep check on terrorist activities," said Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.

In Sahni's opinion, to weed out terrorism, one needs to reinforce the state's general policing abilities tremendously.

"One needs more number of men on the ground. The issue of quality can be addressed later," he said.

The Ram Pradhan committee, constituted to figure out the deficiencies in the Maharashtra police, had recommended that the government urgently fill up all vacancies in Mumbai.

Security experts also believe the country's security agencies have got carried away with technological advances and have neglected the good old method of gathering intelligence using human resources.

Agencies need to revisit traditional methods such as employing mohalla committees.

"Our security apparatus has become so reliant on technical intelligence that we have forgotten human intelligence," said Sahni.

Central and state agencies have failed to learn from their shortcomings and experiences during the 26/11 terrorist attacks. For a population of 1.21 billion citizens, only 5,000 men are on the ground gathering intelligence for the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

These men gather information related to drug trafficking, economic crimes, threat assessment for VIPs and VVIPs and political intelligence.

"For gathering counter-terrorist intelligence, the over-burdened IB has posted 100-odd men," said police sources.

G Parthasarthy, former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, said: "Our security apparatus is heavily politicised." The IB is at the mercy of the ruling party, he said.

"Until this practice ends, it cannot function professionally."

He added: "We lack the technology and expertise to handle counter-terrorism."

Parthasarthy said the way the National Investigation Agency operates is unclear.

"Do they have men in each state? Do they coordinate with the respective state agencies? The US' Federal Bureau of Investigation coordinates with local police departments at the ground level. We have not learnt that," he said.

The police, too, are not trained to tackle terrorism. The police training academy in Hyderabad introduced terrorism in its syllabus only in 2010.

"The course's programme on terrorism is rudimentary," said Sahni.

Ajit Doval, former director of IB, said: "It is high time that India's security apparatus starts thinking futuristically. We need to synchronise human and technical intelligence to tackle terrorists."

India must ensure that the security agencies make it exorbitant for terrorists to operate here, he said.

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