Six years after 26/11- Why we are not prepared to prevent another attack

Mumbai,Manan Kumar: As the nation remembers the sixth anniversary of 26/11, dna takes stock of what has changed since then and whether India is any safer. Former Union home secretary G K Pillai and counter-terrorism specialist Ajai Sahni explain what ails India’s security system.

Six years after 26/11- Why we are not prepared to prevent another attack

After the 26/11 attacks, the government brought the Kargil committee report out from the dust and in a flurry of steps launched the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), Criminal and Crime Tracking Network System (CCTNS), coastal security project, NSG hubs, and police reforms. Clearly, all these are not enough.

Where do we stand now?
Overall security is, more or less, in tatters or half-done. “Some progress has been achieved, but the fact is India is incapable of preventing another 26/11,” concede Pillai and Sahni. “I would say we are just 40% better prepared with respect to 2008. The main lacunae are heavy police shortage and poorly trained men and thus a weak policing system, the first responder to both prevent and respond,” says Pillai.

What are the problems?
There are only 130 policemen per lakh compared to 300-600 per lakh ratio in developed countries. Even among those, sizeable numbers are diverted for VIP duties. What is the rationale of giving Z-plus security to Baba Ramdev when you do not have enough feet on ground? Pillai says. He rues that states have done very little in imparting training to policemen as 60% of Rs 2,200 crore sanctioned by 13th Finance Commission for training lapsed by 2014.

Is adequate training given to police?
“Ask any top officers in Mumbai, including the commissioner, if they would like to go to the training school? The answer will be a flat no. Training school is considered punishment posting, a dog house. In Israel, it’s the other way. The police train hard and that is why they prevent attacks,” says Pillai. Sahni says while India’s intelligence apparatus has done well to neutralise and bust several modules post 2008 and the quantum of threat has declined significantly, the preparedness to prevent such an attack is highly suspect.

How good is Mumbai’s Force One?
“Mumbai definitely has an excellent Force One, but it would require two hours to reach if South Mumbai is attacked again. It’s our good luck that our capabilities have not been tested on the scale of 26/11 because Pakistan is nose deep in domestic troubles and is wary of international pressure,” adds Sahni. Coastal security, though, has seen some improvement in terms of Quick Reaction Teams, fast motorboats and marine police stations, but still has huge yawning gaps, says Pillai.

Is there a proper coastal census?
There is still no system to check about 20 lakh boats crisscrossing the sea without identification. Like each fisherman, all boats are supposed to have Aadhaar numbers so that they could be tracked and fitted with transponders for identification. But it has been implemented only on boats which are 15 metres and above. Tracking 20 lakh boats, without technology, along the 7000-km long coastline is an impossible task and hence a huge security risk.