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Crowds may leave no room for terror in Mumbai

Experts say when there’s hardly any space for vehicles to manoeuvre, replicating a Barcelona-like terror attack in Mumbai becomes tough

mumbai Updated: Aug 24, 2017 00:43 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
Mumbai has a population density of nearly 21,000 people per square kilometre and more than 28 lakh vehicles on its roads. (HT FILE)

With the festive season upon us, the security apparatus is marshalling all resources to ensure Mumbai’s crowded streets and public spaces, which are going to be even more choked with people, do not witness the kind of drive-through terror strikes that have been making news across Europe. But here’s where, say security experts, the crowds actually help.

Mumbai has a population density of nearly 21,000 people per square kilometre and more than 28 lakh vehicles on its roads. Security experts say that with little space for vehicles to manoeuvre, it will be tough for anyone to replicate a terror attack like the one in Barcelona on August 17 when a man drove a van through a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

A serving senior police officer, who did a stint with counter-terrorism units, said there was hardly any space for vehicles to speed in Mumbai. “If one wants to mow down people, one needs to take them by surprise. The surprise element will come only if the vehicle is speeding. In most busy streets of Mumbai, vehicles cannot move faster than 40 kilometres an hour,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The officer went on to analyse the traffic conditions, and crowded pavements of areas around Dadar railway station and Plaza Cinema, and that of the perennially crowded Linking Road of Bandra. “There is literally no scope for vehicles to move at speed to mow down people.”

Also, the Mumbai police have upped the security drill. Every police station has 4 to 5 vans and enough beat marshals patrolling the streets. The beat marshals, who once were equipped with just walkie-talkies, are equipped with GPS-enabled tablets, which can relay videos directly to the control room. “This means that in case of a terror attack, top officers will instantly get real-time images of the scene to decide how to thwart it.”

Also, the promenades in Mumbai are not as easy to drive through as in European countries. There are all kinds of obstacles – trees and statues planted haphazardly, and hawkers with stalls. “One of the key things to understand is there is hardly any place for a vehicle to speed while approaching or exiting these promenades. The natural geography of these promenades in Mumbai ensures a curve towards it approach and exit, and this necessarily slows down the speed of the vehicle,” said the IPS officer.

But the danger increases during the festive seasons when public spaces are teeming with people. “Orders have been issued to review the security situation, and adequate amount of barricading and diversions will be made to ensure no untoward situation happens,” added the officer.

A senior security advisor also pointed out that most of the attacks in Europe were by alienated immigrants and said in India such a situation did not exist.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 00:43 IST