rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

Last updated on: November 28, 2011 16:55 IST

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

     Next

Next

The 26/11 attacks catapulted the National Security Guards to the superhero status. But today, three years after the attack, the Black Cats have become the forgotten heroes. The government is contemplating downsizing the force of 5,000 to 2,500. With most of the commandos on VVIP duties, only a few will be left for combat in case there's a repeat of the Mumbai attacks. Vicky Nanjappa reports

The National Security Guards became national heroes after the 26/11 attacks. And post the operation all the focus was on strengthening the force and setting up NSG hubs across the nation in case there was repeat of the Mumbai attacks.

But soon the hype died down and now, three years on, the NSG is awaiting a revamp, caught in a tussle between Home Minister P Chidambaram and his Cabinet. Insiders say these are teething problems. Whatever the case be the expansion of the NSG seems to have stalled.

Click NEXT to read further...


Image: National Security Guard commandos stand during the opening of their new hub in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters
     Next

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

On November 26, 2008 while 10 terrorists massacred hundreds in the city, red tape delayed in pressing the NSG into action. It took the Black Cats an inexcusable six hours to get to the places where the terrorists were holed up.

First, they waited for three and a half hours for a plane to fly them to Mumbai from Delhi and then they wasted yet another hour at the Mumbai airport, waiting for buses to ferry them to sites that were targeted by terrorists.

Post the attacks, the government was at the receiving end for more reasons than one. It was in 2007, a year before the strike, that a proposal was made to increase the NSG hubs in the country. A blueprint was sent to the home ministry, which was shot down initially.


Image: NSG commandos react after a successful operation to dislodge Islamist militants from Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai November 29, 2008
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

It was the Mumbai attacks that drew interest towards the expansion and revamp of the NSG. 

J K Dutt, the then chief of the NSG who led the operation in Mumbai, said that the proposal to have more NSG hubs was sent to the home ministry in 2007. "Nothing really happened back then. The then home secretary G K Pillai had also visited the NSG hub following which we had made a presentation. But there was no response from the Centre," Dutt said.

"Even before the attacks, we found the need to have more hubs taking into account the nation's security. I had stated that the NSG is a quick response team and needs to reach places on very short notice. The fog in Delhi was always an issue and I pointed out that it could cause delay in case of an emergency situation. But all this fell on deaf ears and we were taking seriously only post 26/11," he added.


Image: J K Dutt, the then NSG chief, speaks to the media after an operation near the Nariman House in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Dutt pointed out that the NSG should not be asked to make any compromises. "Today, land is provided to the NSG but it still does not enjoy the status of an elite force."

There appears to be a lot of haggling when it comes to discussing the NSG within the government. Most of the discussions have revolved round downsizing the force because of crunch of funds, say insiders. But at the same time the government is reluctant to reduce the number of NSG commandos who are on VVIP duty. "In order to ensure that security for the VVIPs is not compromised there are suggestions to reduce the two special action groups attached to the smaller hubs of the NSG to one. This has become a point of debate in government circles," said a source.

The home ministry has decided to reduce the strength of the NSG to 2500 from 5000. Most of these 2,5000 commandos would be in charge of VVIP security, leaving only a handful for combat.


Image: A NSG commando rappels from a helicopter near Nariman House during the 26/11 rescue operation
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

NSG, the forgotten 26/11 heroes: Govt planning downsize?

Prev     More
Prev

More

Dutt is of the view that if the government wants to downsize the force it should look at the VVIP security aspect. "A sizeable number of commandos are on VVIP duty and if this strength is reduced then correspondingly a lot of the expenditure comes down. Another aspect that can be looked into is the investigation in bomb blasts cases. If one depends on forensics team then the blast investigation wing of the NSG can be wound up," he said.

"When hubs are created then one must understand that a minimum number of men are required to run it. And most of these men are specialised in combat. If we see a reduction of forces in the NSG then we are asking for trouble," he added.



Image: NSG commandos stand on the rooftop of Nariman House during the 26/11 rescue operation
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     More