Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Explosive question

Posted online: Tuesday, October 09, 2007 at 0000 hrs Print EmailShouldn’t the government deny terrorists, Naxalites easy access to bomb-making material?
The connection — between missing munitions and incidents of terror hundreds of kilometres away — is often not realised, and certainly not addressed in any concerted fashion by the government. Indeed it is this unconscionable apathy that provoked the Express to conduct a new investigative series, ‘The ticking bombs’, which reveals that in just two years — 2004-2006 — India lost to incidents of theft some 86,899 detonators and 10,150 kg of slurry explosives apart from other material.

How does this happen? What are the systems in place to prevent such occurrences? Where does the lost material go? Does it ultimately end up in the hands of extremists? These are questions that should evoke an urgent response from the state but, unfortunately, do not. In December 2005, when a ship transporting explosives to Afghanistan for Border Roads Organisation projects in that country, lost a large portion of its cargo of explosives. They were evidently swept overboard. The incident raised alarm bells, led to the setting up of a committee and the emergence of a report. But the recommendations went the way of most recommendations of this kind: into oblivion. Undeniably, minding the munitions store is complex business. How, for instance, can the sale, distribution and deployment of potentially lethal ammonium nitrate — used for purposes ranging from fertilising crops to the manufacture of medicines — be placed on the radar? But a business-as-usual approach cannot be the response to the challenge. If we can expend so much attention, energy and funds on fighting separatist and Naxal groups, we should at least ensure that those waging a war against the Indian state are denied easy access to its stores of explosives.

The problem is not peculiar to India alone, but countries that take their security more seriously have also succeeded in evolving a credible munitions management regime that monitors in a pro-active way the entire cycle: from procurement and storage of munitions and explosives, to their transfer and use. This requires the setting up of systems like categorisation, codification and computerisation. India needs to drastically overhaul current procedures, which border on the primitive, and address a problem that can only be termed a truly explosive one.


No comments: