'Every terror strike exposes loopholes in Mumbai's security'
Senior analyst B Raman in this open letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan discusses ways to plug the loopholes in the security cover of Mumbai, which has already been a terror victim for five times.
Permit me to compliment you on your interview to ND TV telecast on July 15, on the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on July 13. Like me, thousands of viewers of the interview would have been impressed by the frankness and clarity with which you spoke and by your determination to see that the right lessons are drawn and implemented to prevent a repeat of similar attacks.
After the Mumbai blasts of 26/11, I wrote as follows on the London blasts of July 2005: "243 posts of counter-terrorism security advisers have been created since July 2005 and it has been reported that each important police station in London has at least two advisers attached to it. The London Police have established a programme called 'London First' in which the police and the private sector co-operate closely to ensure better security in London.
The principle underlying it is that it is the joint responsibility of every one in London to ensure its security from terrorist attacks.
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Image: Police use a sniffer dog at Zaveri Bazaar after blasts
Photographs: Danish Siddique/Reuters
Let us have our own 'Delhi First, Mumbai First..'
Let us have our own Delhi First, Mumbai First, Chennai First, Kolkata First, Bangalore First and Hyderabad First partnerships to ensure that November 26 will not be repeated again."
Before the London blasts, the conventional wisdom was that an effective way of dealing with terrorism was through a good beat system. Our success in dealing with Khalistani terrorism in Punjab was due to the commendable role of the Punjab Police, ably headed by K P S Gill, the then director-general of the Punjab Police. He believed that the police should be the weapon of first resort against terrorism. He made it clear to his Station House Officers that he would hold them responsible for the successful prevention and investigation of terrorism.
On August 17, 2006, Gill had an interaction with a group of retired police officers living in Chennai. I happened to be present.
He expressed his disquiet over the mushrooming of specialised counter-terrorism organisations which could create a wrong impression in the minds of the police officers that counter-terrorism is not their primary responsibility.
Image: Policemen surround a vehicle which was damaged at Dadar after a blast
Police alone will not be able to effectively tackle terror
After the London blasts of July 2005, there has been fresh thinking on the role of the police. While its role is still considered important and primary and there is still emphasis on the need for revamping the beat system, it is now admitted that the police alone will not be able to deal effectively with modern terrorism sponsored by another state and with international links unless it has the benefit of expertise from specialists and assistance from specialised units.
Moreover, the security forces alone will not be able to deal with terrorism unless they receive the co-operation of the general public and the private sector, which is increasingly concerned over the spread of terrorism to urban centres of economic power.
It was to meet these additional requirements that the London Police created the posts of counter-terrorism security advisers attached to police stations in vulnerable areas.
I was given to understand that a scheme for ensuring better security for Mumbai through the co-operation of the police and the private sector was started after 26/11, but I do not know how well it has been working.
A special task force on counter-terrorism set up by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry of New Delhi -- of which Ved Marwah, former Commissioner of Police, Delhi, A K Doval, former director, Intelligence Bureau, Lt Gen Satish Nambiar, who was a member of the high-power panel on terrorism set up by Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary-General, and I were amongst the members -- came out with a comprehensive set of recommendations in November 2009, which were presented to P Chidambaram, the home minister.
One of the objectives of this task force was to examine how to prevent another 26/11 and better ensure the security of the metro cities.
Image: A policeman whistles and gestures to onlookers at Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai
Photographs: Danish Siddique/Reuters
Every terror strike speaks of loopholes in the intelligence, security cover
The serial blasts of July 13 in three sensitive areas of Mumbai would indicate that despite the measures taken by the government after 26/11 to strengthen the security of Mumbai on its own as well as on the recommendations of others such as the task force set up by the FICCI, the terrorists continue to locate loopholes in the security structure of Mumbai and take advantage of them to carry out terrorist attacks.
The 13/7 attacks show that either the pre-26/11 cells of terrorist organisations, which had remained dormant, had been re-activated or new organisations or groups have come up with their own cells without being detected by the intelligence agencies and the state police.
We are not yet in a position to provide effective security to the people of Mumbai who have been attacked five times -- in 1993, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011. The people living or working in the Zhaveri Bazaar area, an important jewellery and diamond business area, have been targeted thrice -- in 1993, 2003 and 2011.
None of the intelligence collection and physical security measures taken by us after every major terrorist strike in Mumbai since 1993 has been able to provide effective security to the people of Mumbai in general and of Zhaveri Bazaar in particular.
Every successful terrorist strike speaks of loopholes in the intelligence and security cover provided to Mumbai. Otherwise, the terrorists would not have succeeded.
Unless we are able to identify and plug these loopholes after a comprehensive enquiry, the terrorists will continue to take advantage of them. There is a need for a comprehensive look at the intelligence and security cover provided to Mumbai in general and to some of its highly vulnerable areas such as Zaveri Bazaar in particular.
We will be badly letting down the people of the Zaveri Bazaar area if we let them be targeted for a fourth time by the terrorists.
It is important to undertake urgently a vulnerability assessment of Mumbai and its sensitive areas in order to provide a scheme for a vulnerability-specific intelligent-cum-security cover. Let us make Zaveri Bazaar the epicentre of our counter-terrorism efforts. Let us work out, in co-operation with the public and the private business sector, a Mumbai First and Zaveri Bazaar First intelligence-cum-security cover and implement it vigorously.
The plan should look at the adequacy of the existing police stations for a counter-terrorism role, the effectiveness of the existing beat and patrolling systems, the adequacy of the existing communication network, the need for counter-terrorism expertise to assist the police, the role of the public and the private sector and other related subjects.
We should start this exercise today. Tomorrow may be late.
With warm regards,
B Raman, Chennai.
Image: A man moves debris from the blast site at Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters