10 years after 26/11, Mumbai’s coastal police still city’s weakest link

Mumbai has three major sagari police stations, of which two were added after the attack. Yet, force is short-staffed, ill-equipped
only three or four boats are operational at any given time, said an officer from a coastal police station(HT Photo)
only three or four boats are operational at any given time, said an officer from a coastal police station(HT Photo)
Updated on Nov 11, 2018 12:41 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByMegha Sood, Mumbai

Ten years after terrorists exploited the weakness in India’s coastal security to devastating effect, Mumbai’s coastal police wing remains the weakest of its defences. Known as the sagari police, the service is short-staffed, ill-equipped and mired in red tape.

Since the 26/11 attacks, the state government has made some efforts to shore up the coastal police’s resources. As of 2018, there are 50 police stations along the coast of Maharashtra and 70-odd boats of various types, including patrol boats and interceptors. “There are over 60 landing points where CCTVs have been installed in the past two years, which are being monitored by the Mumbai police,” said Pravin Padwal, additional commissioner of police (port).

In Mumbai, the coastal police, who patrol 12 nautical miles off the city’s 114-kilometre coastline, have three major sagari police stations: Yellow Gate Mumbai, Sagari 1 (Mahim), and Sagari 2 (Gorai). The ones at Mahim and Gorai were added after 26/11. The force has 12 speed boats to patrol the length Mumbai’s coastline. In addition to round-the-clock monitoring, coastal police officers – one sub inspector and two constables and two technical staff plus driver – patrol using speed boats twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

“Very often the boats break down and have to be sent to the repair centre at Sewri. The parts of the boats are mostly unavailable as they come from the Goa Shipping yard, which takes a long time,” said a police officer from the Coastal police, adding that any given time, “only three or four boats are operational.” At present, the operational boats are with the Yellowgate, Sagari 1 and Sagari 2 at Gorai.

In October 2016, a 10-page proposal was submitted to the home department of Maharashtra, which was described by the state as the third phase of a project to modernise the coastal police. The first phase saw a coastal police station set up in Mahim, in 2012 and the procurement of six patrol boats. In the second phase, the Sagari 2 police station was set up in 2013, floating check posts were established and in 2016, life jackets were provided to personnel.

“The coast police stations are still short staffed. But recruitment process is going on,” said Padwal. In Sagari 1, the staff strength is 50 even though its sanctioned strength is 750. The sagari police have been operating from the Mahim policemen’s residential quarters since inception in 2007. Work on a coastal police station was started at Mahim Causeway (Reti Bunder), but was stopped in 2015, when it was in the last stage because of a litigation alleging violation of coastal zone regulations. Sagari 2 at Gorai has a sanctioned strength of 300, an actual strength of 120 and at any given time, only 55 police personnel are on duty. They were operating out of six flats at the police quarters in Borivli (West) until 2016 when they shifted to a bungalow in Gorai. The coastal police station at Yellow Gate, which has jurisdiction of the eastern coast of Mumbai till Vashi Bridge including offshore oil fields and platforms, is the only building that belongs to the sagari police.

In the latest move to upgrade the infrastructure of the existing Coastal Security System, the Maharashtra Government has decided to construct Marine Operation Rooms (MOR) at 10 landing points of Mumbai’s coast, which would serve as quick responseposts for marine combat.

“The MORs, which have been recently sanctioned would monitor the coastal activities of the 114-km coastline of the city. The formation of three Marine Operation Rooms (MOR) would be done on a pilot project basis at Sassoon Docks, Marve in Malad and Bandra-Worli Sealink near the Bandra end. The proposal has now been sanctioned,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity. The MOR would be equipped with at least 50 thermal cameras, satellite phones and night vision eyepieces and speedboats.

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