A week after the triple blasts in Mumbai, investigative agencies are yet to get any major breakthrough in the case. That, and the frightful recurrence of terror attacks has underscored a near-total collapse of the intelligence network.
Each time a terror attack takes place, central agencies blame their state counterparts, accusing them of processing their terror alerts inadequately. Local police, on their part, complain that the alerts issued by central agencies are often routine or random and therefore, non-actionable.
“Of the 10 terror strikes that have taken place since 1993, only the November 2008 attack was executed by mercenaries from Pakistan. In the other nine cases, the perpetrators were our own people,” observed former Mumbai police commissioner M N Singh. “It shows how we have conducted ourselves over the years, especially in terms of intelligence gathering.”
Singh’s term of over two and half years was devoid of any terrorist attack in the city. “Intelligence gathering is a two way process—from centre to state, and vice versa. The state, or the police station, has become completely ineffective in gathering intelligence,” Singh said.
Singh emphasised that the police station is the real policing unit. “Terrorists in sleeper cells are homegrown. Men in police stations, and not officers in central agencies, can gather intelligence about them,” he added.
Former IPS officer-turned high court lawyer YP Singh agreed that the repeated terror strikes were an outcome of a “callous attitude towards intelligence gathering”. “A transfer to the intelligence department is considered as a punishment posting,” he said. “Our officers are more interested in dealing with glamorous cases, or cases that give them access to politicians, or a chance to make money. Forget sharing, there is no interest in intelligence gathering,” Singh complained.
Sourcing intelligence is a complex process. “Any input has to be duly processed before it is delivered to the next hierarchy or shared with other agencies. If some information has been gathered by a constable at the grass root level – most likely to be specific information - it has to be processed by the seniors before being sent upward. The process needs dedication and application of mind,” Singh said.
“The IB prefers to keep away from officers in police stations. In the process, they are losing out on several bits of information that could otherwise have helped them immensely,” he added.
After the November 2008 terror strike, the R D Pradhan committee - constituted to look into the lacunae in police response during crisis - emphasised on greater sharing and better flow of intelligence between the various agencies. There is no consensus on whether these findings have been acted upon. A section of the state and city police believe that a lot has improved after the state government acted on the report. “The recommendations have been followed to the letter,” said a senior Mumbai police official, requesting anonymity.
He added that as per the recommendations, a nodal committee has been formed at the state level. It meets every week in a session presided by the home minister. At the Central level, the MAC (Multi Agency Centre) holds monthly meetings for intelligence sharing, with representatives from all state bodies as well as intelligence agencies.
However, not everyone agrees with this. A section of the police force feels that the committee recommendations are holistic and of little practical relevance, since intelligence sharing between ‘competing’ agencies is highly unlikely.