In the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, Home Minister P Chidambaram announced with great fanfare the setting up of four regional hubs and two regional training centres for the National Security Guard, promising to expand the strength of the force to a staggering 10,000 commandos.
Nearly 30 months after that decision, the NSG is finding it hard to find suitable troopers to man its hubs and regional centres. In 2009, the NSG had projected a requirement for 40 additional officers and over 600 soldiers from the Army to be deputed to the main combat task forces (the Special Action Group, which conducted the 26/11 operations) at the four regional hubs.
The Army, short of nearly 13,000 officers in its own ranks, is finding it hard to send the required numbers. Two years after the NSG request, only 20 officers have been sent on deputation. Even finding the right soldiers is proving to be difficult. After all, only four out of 10 soldiers have been found to be fit enough to meet the stringent standards that the NSG follows. Over and above that, the Army naturally wants its best soldiers to be part of its own Special Forces battalions rather than be sent to the NSG.
As a result of this shortage, the home ninistry has now agreed to scale down the projected requirement for the proposed regional centres since finding 250 more Army officers and over 4,000 suitably qualified soldiers is going to be next to impossible.
This is not the only reality that has hit the home minister hard. Despite his best efforts, the NSG has not been able to overcome bureaucratic and procedural hurdles in procuring and acquiring new weapons and equipment.
For instance, the NSG had recommended the need to have a 'seamless and secure command and control system' -- on-ground, fitted in a vehicle and air-borne -- to be able to communicate from the squadron commander upwards right up to the MHA control room but the process to acquire or build such a system has not even begun.
The projection to have 'Future NSG Commando as a System', on the lines of the Army's Future Infantry soldier as a System (F-INSAS) is still on the drawing board. Under this, the plan was to equip every member of the Combat Task Force with the most modern systems from head-to-toe with modern helmets, night vision goggles, weapons fitted with night lights, light boots and hands-free secure communication equipment as part of standard issue to every NSG trooper.
There are other shortcomings in terms of quick procurements of critical weapons and equipment which are entangled in procedures and bureaucratic hurdles. Chidambaram will have to intervene quickly if his plans to make NSG the most potent commando force are to be implemented.