Thursday, June 25, 2009

Red alert: Dysfuntional security system

Bangalore’s security forces seem to be waiting for something to happen before they can get their act together.Naveen Ammembala First Published : 25 Jun 2009 12:51:43 PM ISTLast Updated : 25 Jun 2009 01:00:34 PM IST

Indians and, Bangaloreans, in particular, do not learn from their past mistakes. The IISc attack, serial Bangalore blasts and even the Mumbai terror strike only succeeded in evincing knee jerk reactions.


A dozen proposals and many meetings later, which we have lost count of, Bangalore and its citizens, remain as vulnerable as before to terrorism. The Mumbai terror attack had managed to shake many metroes across the nation. Bangalore, which was on the terror radar too, also managed to be shocked. But that was just about it. Even as of today, if the city is attacked, the government does not fully prepared to take it on.

Bangalore’s first brush with terrorists was the IISc attack on December 28, 2005. Nearly three-and-half years on, and appeal after appeal by every officer who has since been at the helm of the state police, Bangalore is yet to have a separate Anti-Terror Cell.

After the attacks, the city police looked like they are taking their job seriously. At least the loaded weapons and the round-the-clock vigil seemed to show that was the case.

However, all that initial eagerness has now gone up in fizz as everything has gone back to where it was-sloppy and directionless.

Sheltered

In 2002, it seemed like the big Tword was making its appearance in Bangalore. Activists of Deendar Anjuman triggered bomb blasts in churches in Bangalore, Gulbarga and Hubli. The police managed to arrest 26 activists and traced their origin to Pakistan. During this period, militant infiltration to the state was on a high. Militants who were being hunted in Kashmir had found a home in Bangalore. Then in 2005, terror started ringing loud and clear at Bangalore’s doorsteps when Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives opened fire at a group of scientists at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, killing a Delhi-based scientist and injuring five others. In 2008, serial blasts at eight places claimed one life. For several years now, Bangalore has been seen as the ideal shelter for terrorists and underworld operators. The city police have arrested over a dozen terror suspects, said to be members of the banned SIMI and LeT. Bangalore is now being seen as a breeding ground for terror networks that have roots in the Middle-East.

If the late 1970s and mid-80s smugglers were making the city their temporary home, the 1990s witnessed Mumbai underworld operators, Andhra Naxals and Tamil extremists taking refuge here. Since 2000, there has been a rise in pan-Islamic terror. The reasons are demolition of Babri Mazjid, Iraq war, local communal riots, and increased movement of students to foreign countries.

Imperfect solutions

Mumbai attacks have exposed weakness of our police and intelligence apparatus. White collar crimes and tech-based terrorism have kept pace with the growth of IT/BT here, but law-keepers have not changed with the times.

Skills in tackling naxalism and terrorism, computer skills, use of laptops and global positioning systems, cyber crime & laws, cell phone application, brain-mapping are areas our police should be receiving specialised training in.

The lethargic system in the police department usually never allows the ‘trained’ cops to continue to do the commando exercises, an officer said. At least keeping them in a state of readiness, both physial and mental, is essential. They could also be trained in simulated environs like climbing multi-storeyed buildings during emergencies.

The Government order to the effect of forming an Internal Security Division is yet to be executed. The government had issued an order for raising an Internal Security Division (ISD), on the lines of the National Security Guards (NSG).

The order has said that will be sanctioned 100 Hoysala police jeeps for Bangalore and 500 for coastal and naxal-affected regions. The Hoysalas will be equipped with GPS/GPRS technology. The nonfunctional vehicles will either be replaced or rented out. But the order seems to have never been executed.

A 100-member strong commando unit was set up by the state police in 2004 to attend to special operations. The unit comprising officers of various ranks was to meet the long-felt need for a special force. A commando force requires young personnel who will dare to face a calamity head-on, but all the 100 members in the unit are over 40 years of age.

The city needs a commando force on the lines of the NSG to tackle possible terror attacks with welltrained constabulary and modern arms. But no such commando force exists till today in city.

What are you sniffing at?

Bangalore is highly proving to be a soft target for terrorism activities. A sniffer dog squad is pressed into service as part of the mandatory security drill at spots visited by VIPs. But, the sniffer dogs of state police actually don’t have the ability to detect modern explosives such as RDX, TNT, DNT, MNT, TNB, HMX etc. The dogs could only identify gun powder, gelatin sticks and other crude explosive materials.

Some intelligence, please

Sources in intelligence cell said that being posted to the cell was a ‘punishment’. Though they are expected to be covering areas like VIP, terrorist movements, political and legal areas and other surveillance, they are left updating the government about their requirements with little focus on surveillance and security of citizens.

Disaster Management, a disaster

State’s Disaster Management Cell almost functions out of the Vidhana Soudha with the police hardly in the picture. The revenue department secretary is also the secretary of the Disaster Management Cell (DMC). The immediate need is to form a separate disaster management cell under the fire and emergency services department. The cell should have personnel trained enough to perform evacuation and other emergency exercises on the spot - be it a terror attack or a natural calamity.

Ouch, that hurts

The terror attacks exposed the police forces of Bangalore as illequipped, ill-trained and ill-provided for.

A platoon comprising 30 men were to be trained to use AK-47s and be a back-up to handle crisis situations. But till now we have no such platoon.

The Internal Security Division has been set up its’ wings like ATC, Intellegnce etc need a lot of improvement and the government has to provide more infrastructure.

City Intelligence just updates the government about political matters, protests on daily basis and fails to focus on surveillance.

City’s Law and order officers presently handling ATC with not much focus.

But there is hope

The commando team is being strengthened after it got a nod from the Centre. Two units of Para Military Force located in Bangalore would act as commando forces in case of emergency.

Mega city project: With the intention of preparing a detailed plan to combat terrorism in India, six Commissioners of Police (CP) from different states met recently in the city under the Mega City Police project. Police bosses from Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata attended the meeting. Bangalore is likely to be allocated between Rs 80 and 100 crore.

Fire commandoes: The vision of a force, capable of handling both the terrorists and fire mishaps equal to ease any such siege situations. The concept of Fire Commandos is now a reality. A 35-membered force of Fire Commandos has already been set and another batch with 35 members is being set up. Fire brigades with well trained fire personnel were not in a position to enter the Hotel Taj Mahal where militants occupied the area and NSG and military commandos were in action.

Soft targets

The recent terrorist attacks on Taj Mahal and Trident Hotel at Mumbai (26/11) is a chilling warning that the Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, especially the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other terrorist outfits have now concretised their plans to attack high-value soft targets such as hotels, restaurants, hospitals in Bangalore.

Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VB-IEDs) have become common mode of attacks all over the world and the same threat is faced by the IT city. So, the rigorous check of vehicles, visitors/guests, employees, baggage is required.

Hotels, high-rise buildings need equipments like CCTV, metal detector and search lights.

Maintaining a register of tenants at each police station level with the assistance of owners of houses. It was done during the terror attacks, but now the police has forgotten to keep track.

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