Saturday, September 01, 2007

'Pump in more funds to raise police strength' --Shivraj Patil

Daily News & Analysis
Saturday, September 01, 2007 1:06:00 AM

Shubhangi Khapre & Anupam Dasgupta

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil has asked state governments to allocate more funds in their budgets and state plans to increase the police strength and improve internal security.

The status paper on internal security situation says urgent steps are needed to improve the existing national average police population ratio of 1:728. The stress on improving the internal security in mega cities - Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Chennai - that are faced with terror/Naxalite threats has set the Centre worrying.

While dissuading any dialogue with Naxalites unless they give up arms, the Centre has urged the state to evolve a comprehensive anti-Naxalite operation to contain their activities.

It is imperative on the state government to expand the police force, given that Mumbai is being confronted with new challenges of terrorism and Naxalite attacks. The state is falling short of almost 90,000 policemen.

Paucity of funds has been cited as one of the prime reasons for its inability to match the growing demands. With the growing Naxalitie clout in Mumbai and adjoining Thane, the government has been asked to step up its anti-Naxalite operations.

Also, the twin blasts in Hyderabad last week have set the alarm bells ringing. "Mumbai's size make it a potential soft terror target. Also the state's vast coastline and its sea-port are likely prey for terrorist operations," said an intelligence officer. And the fact that Mumbai is the country's financial nerve-centre makes matters worse.

A recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) assessment had claimed that over 500 Lashkar-e-Tayyaba cadres, trained in navigation skills and handling of large boats could infiltrate into the country through unmanned islands and take advantage of the lax coastal security cover.

Another officer said such strikes are aimed at crowded places, mass-transit systems, markets and malls. And to top it all, the city's police force is severely short-staffed and overworked.

Dismissing the plea for stringent laws on the lines of Pota to tackle terrorism, the home ministry has suggested the effective implementation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and National Security Act, 1980. Patil said the existing laws had all the mechanisms provided in Pota to deal with terrorists.

In 2006-'07, the Centre allocated Rs1,065 crore to various states governments under the modernisation of police forces scheme. "The government will have to pursue effective measures to improve the ground level policing, besides countering the negative propaganda by Naxalities," he said.

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