Sea of change in Mumbai’s coastal security after 26/11 attacks

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 21, 2016 12:09 IST

With the Union home minister Rajnath Singh last week emphasising the need to safeguard India’s coastline, there is focus on coastal security in the city — which faced its worst-ever terror attack from the sea. In 2008, 10 terrorists who started from Pakistan on November 23, 2008, landed in Mumbai around 8.30pm on November 26, and attacked various places in the city, leaving more than 160 dead and more than 300 injured.

From 2008, till date, the city police have stepped up coastal security, but senior police officers with the city police and experts feel a lot more needs to be done.

For instance, equipment like boats — interceptors, amphibious — break down often, said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity. Also, the demand for new boats is currently pending with the state government.

They are still awaiting bigger and better boats that can help them patrol the sea.

Sources said the proposal to either lease out or buy new patrol boats from the Goa Shipping Yard is stuck owing to inadequate funds. The proposal was first mooted in 2012 and has been on paper ever since.

The number of patrol boats with the port zone is also dwindling after some of the vessels were scrapped owing to their age and performance.

“The number of boats has come down to 20 from 27. However, only around 13 boats are available for sea patrolling on any given day owing to maintenance issues. These boats are divided among the coastal police stations,” said a police officer.

The city police have a jurisdiction spanning 12 nautical miles around the Mumbai coast form the last leg of the three-tier security, after which the coast guard and Indian Navy take over. There are four police stations across the coast of the city: Yellow Gate, Wadala, Sewri and Mumbai Sagari, a fifth Mumbai Sagari II operates from a bungalow.

However the biggest complaint among the port zone police is lack of staff and apart from coastal policing – the police in the port zone have to go on bandobast duty and other routine chores. Also, the Yellow Gate police station, which is the main coastal police station in the city — continues to have jurisdiction over the entire west coast — from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu. For any incident on the west coast, a first information report (FIR) has to be registered with Yellow Gate police station.

Experts on the subject, however, said coastal security is a state subject and not just Mumbai-centric because the country has a vast coastline of more than 7,200km.

“There are chinks in the armor. The government has spent a lot of money and has taken countless efforts to secure the sea, but a lot still needs to be done. We are, however, a lot safer than what we were in 2008,” said D Sivanandhan, former Mumbai police commissioner.

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