As Mumbai watched helplessly the 10 gunmen who held it under siege for 61 hours, the outrage was loud and clear. ‘Politicians are to blame’, ‘the government failed us’ were the common refrains.
This anger spilled over onto the streets as the city staged candlelight vigils, signed petitions and formed citizens’ groups.
So where is the government going wrong?
“The government and police are making only a half-hearted effort. There is no commitment from either since their priorities are social and monetary gratification,” said Y.P. Singh, a former police officer and lawyer-activist.
Singh felt urgent attention needs to be paid to external security along the coastline. Mumbai has a 62-km coastline that runs from Colaba to Versova in the west and to Wadala in the east.
Y.C. Pawar, a former joint commissioner of police, agreed. “Apart from coastal security, the government needs to realise that the police are not meant to tackle terrorists. We need a special force for that,” he said.
But former union cabinet secretary B.G. Deshmukh felt it was not right to put the ball only in the government’s court. “No one could have predicted such an attack. Mumbai is geographically strategic with a huge coastline that makes it vulnerable. But this should not be used as an excuse to not keep people safe,” Deshmukh said.
He too pointed out some issues that need to be addressed immediately. “We need not only a massive overhaul of the police, but also to give them freedom to take decisions. There should be direct coordination between the police and the paramilitary,” he said.
Most of the issues raised by the experts have been looked into over the past year. The government spent 126 crore to beef up security systems and Rs 92 crore on upgrading equipment. A special force was created along the lines of the National Security Guard.
But, said Deshmukh, citizens need to get more involved. “We forget everything within days of an attack. Citizens need to change their attitude and form groups that will work continuously with the police and the government. Only then can we have a terror-proof pla.n. It is everybody’s responsibility,” he said.