10 years after 26/11, NSG audit shows chinks in 20 states’ armour
On November 6, weeks before the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba will host a meeting with state director generals of police (DGPs) and home secretaries to discuss improving the counter-terrorism capabilities of state police departments based on the first-ever audit of these conducted by the National Security Guards (NSG).
The audit, a follow-up to the home ministry’s recommendations after the 26/11 attacks, has found the capability of the police apparatus to fight terrorist attacks in at least 20 states including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and places them in the average and below average category.
Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra were placed in the very good category while Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police were in the good category.
The elite force carried out the audit between March and June this year. According to home ministry officials who asked not to be identified, the director general of NSG has been asked to present the audit report to the state DGPs in the conference. Home minister Rajnath Singh is conscious of the need to enhance the counter-terrorism capabilities of the police departments across states, the officials added.
After the Mumbai attack, which left 174 dead and 304 injured, it was decided that all state police departments would have a dedicated counter-terrorism force which would be the first responder in case of a terrorist attack. NSG was designated as a second responder but it was tasked to train all specialised counter-terrorism forces of the states such as Octopus in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Force One in Maharashtra and Chetak in Gujarat. Punjab, a state that has faced decades of Pakistan-instigated Khalistani terrorism, still does not have a specialised force and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal has just announced the raising of Kavach, a specialised counter-terrorism force. Many other states do not have specialised forces.
The security audit was conducted on parameters such as: Organization Structure, Manpower Management, Equipment, Weaponry and Mobility. It was found that some states had just transferred personnel from their police departments, showcasing them as a counter-terrorism force.
While NSG has five commando hubs (Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad) apart from Delhi to neutralise terrorist strikes, experts say the key to counter-terror operations lies in faster decision-making by the government of the day and rapid deployment of special forces.
“It is up to the initiative of the individual states. For example, as DGP of Odisha we formed a special ops group for tactical roles. It was small group that was specially trained for anti-terror ops in built -up and urban areas,” said Prakash Mishra, former DGP Odisha and CRPF.
“There is enough support from the Centre. Many states, however, accord low priority to creating such special ops groups. Others mistake anti-Maoist forces to be special ops groups. They do so at their peril. The task of each is different and needs a different approach. The expenditure to form such a force is small, but the benefits are enormous.”
According to official records, the first shots in 26/11 by Pakistan Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) gunmen were heard at 2120 hours on November 26 but the then cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar spoke to the then NSG DG Jyoti Dutt for commando deployment in Mumbai only at 0100 hours on November 27. The NSG commandos left Delhi at 0300 hours and reached Mumbai at 0600 hours. The first NSG counter came at 0920 hours at Taj Mahal hotel and the second counter at 1100 hours at Nariman House. This delay in both decision making and deployment cost lives.