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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Force One, buildup fail to instil confidence


I WONDER : I AGREE ..........ITS THE MAN BEHIND THE MACHINE WHICH MATTERS. WE COULD VE EASILY CONTROLLED JUST TEN MEN (WITH AK-47) EVEN WITH  .303 RIFLES(IF FOR A MOMENT I BUY THE EXCUSE OF LACK OF MODERN WPNS).. COULDN'T WE...IF WE HAD THE RIGHT MENTAL AND PHYSICAL MAKEUP....


As the country’s commercial capital observes the first anniversary of 26/11 attacks on Thursday, a question that stares in the face of Mumbaikars is whether their city is better equipped or otherwise to either prevent or combat a mayhem of the kind witnessed last year, notwithstanding the efforts made by the State and the Central Governments to step up the security set-up in the metropolis.

In the run-up to the first anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, the Congress-led DF Government has been working overtime to create a “feel secure” atmosphere among the citizens by talking extensively about the various initiatives taken by it and the Centre, by way of training sections of its personnel in combat and intelligence gathering operations and providing sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons, security vehicles and other equipment to them.

On paper, the Mumbai Police personnel seem better prepared than they were one year ago to fight terrorists. For, their top brass has kept “in readiness” a 1,000-member Quick Reaction Team (QRT) to tackle any terror-combat situation; it has raised a 216-member commando group named ‘Force One’, it has set up bomb detection/disposal squads in all 13 zones of the city; it has purchased 39 combat vehicles for the 585 QRT officers and junior police personnel, more than a dozen bullet-proof vehicles, it has devices like GPS, installed 200-odd CCTVs on different roads of the city and it claims to have stepped up coastal security.

Besides, the Mumbai Police has trained its first batch of 45 intelligence officers, who have committed to dedicate their entire career for intelligence gathering and assessment.

“As far as weapons are concerned, we today have more than sufficient number of AK-47 rifles, Colt M4 flattop carbines, Smith and Wesson pistols, M82 sniper rifles and MB 5 sub-machine guns. Our preparedness has enhanced manifold,” says a senior police officer.

Incidentally, Mumbai is the only city in the country which has three commando wings of the security forces which are doing the same job. For instance, it has QRT personnel trained by experts from the Indian Army, National Security Guard (NSG) and foreign special forces’ specialists. Besides, it has also newly set-up ‘Force One’ and a hub of NSG.

As City Police Commissioner D Sivananandan himself put it at a recent “security and resilience” summit organised jointly by citizens groups Bombay First and London First, “We never imagined of a 26/11-kind of an attack. Our lack of imagination had exposed our lack of preparedness. It was a war, nothing less than a war…. But today our response systems have undergone a sea change during the period.”

However, people from various sections of the society, including the retired police officers, do not share Sivanandan’s optimism. Nor are they ready to buy the “feel secure” campaign being carried out by the State Government.

“(From the point of view of its security concerns), Mumbai is as vulnerable as it was last year. The State Government is talking about providing fool-proof security to the citizens, but it is nowhere near achieving its objectives. This kind of a campaign by the State Government will only improve the atmospheric. But tangible security will not follow from its efforts. More than the weapons and equipment to fight terror, what we need today is to improve human skills of the constables and junior level officers in the police force to react to situations of the kind we faced last year,” says Mahesh Vijapurkar, a consultant on governance and urban planning.

Former Mumbai Police Commissioner MN Singh is not as critical as Vijapuikar, but he hits the nail on the head when he says: “The intelligence gathering is one of the weak areas of the Mumbai police. Though there is some coordination now-a-days among the various intelligence agencies, the fact remains that the intelligence machinery of the city police does not have either wherewithal or talent to gather intelligence information about terror activities. It is somewhat good that the State Government is raising a team of dedicated intelligence. But, it will take a few more years before the trained officers develop their own network of informers.”

Singh says that there “is nothing new in the concept of QRT” which he adds “is good, but did not serve the purpose it was set up for after the terrorists’ attack on Indian Parliament in 2001”, when Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) terrorists attacked Mumbai between the night of November 26 and the morning of November 29, 2008, killing nearly 180 people, injuring over 300 others and virtually siege of south Mumbai for 60 hours.

“The QRT had virtually become a dormant force and was of no use when the ten Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai last year. No wonder that we had to wait for several hours for the NSG personnel to arrive and take over the combat operations. But, the fact remains that being trained commandoes, the QRT personnel should have gotten into the action first. But, being in disuse for a long time, the QRT personnel did not know how to go about the combat operation. Nor was there a higher officer to guide and motivate the QRT personnel,” says Singh.

Neema Kamdar, a housewife from Kandivli in north Mumbai, says: “The State Government has not taken any concrete steps to insulate the citizens in the city from any major terror act in future. Whatever the Government may say, I have a strong feeling that our police personnel are not trained to fight the international terrorists. I am not talking about the NSG personnel. As far as the Mumbai police personnel are concerned, I understand that they do not even have adequate number of sophisticated weapons like AK-47 to carry out any anti-terror operation like the one we saw in November last year.”

Another retired IPS officer YP Singh, who is now both practicing law and crusading on public issues, does not quite agree with the perception in certain quarters that the Mumbai police do not have adequate weapons, particularly the ones AK-47 rifles, and the pre-requisites for the personnel combating terror like bullet-proof jackets.

A comment coming from a well-known critic of the State Government like YP Singh, the State Government should feel relieved. Says he: “A false impression is sought to be created in certain quarters that the Mumbai police do not have adequate number of weapons or bullet proof jackets in their armoury. Let me make it clear that the Mumbai police have more than adequate number of AK-47 rifles and standard bullet proof jacket, unlike in the past when the officers like then ATS chief Hemant Karkare were forced to wear rejected and sub-standard bullet-proof vests. I saw over 100 combat police personnel wearing standard bullet-proof jacket when they participated in a rehearsal of the first 26/11 anniversary this morning.”

However, the words of comfort handed by YP Singh are limited to weapons and bullet-proof packets.

YP Singh agrees with MN Singh when he says: “The intelligence gathering is one area we have hardly done anything. Had we had our intelligence network in place, we would have arrested LeT terrorist David Coleman Headley ourselves as early in 2007 than waiting for information to know about him from the FBI. Intelligence is one area which has been totally ignored both the Mumbai police top brass and the State Government’.

Like MN Singh, YP Singh accepts that QRT is very essential for a city like Mumbai, but says: “It cannot deliver unless that it is trained and motivated on a continuous basis. More than weapons, what the QRT and commandoes need are proper guidance and motivation. The weapons are only for taking care of the 11th hour needs. What about the happenings during the remaining 10 hours?” YP Singh asks.

MN Singh is candid, when he says the Mumbai police is riven by factionalism. Alluding to criticism of certain officers in the Mumbai force by the widows of slain IPS officers Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamate over the suspicious circumstances in which their husbands were ambushed on the night of November 26, 2008 and comments by the then city police commissioner’s allegation against four of the senior IPS officers, MN Singh said: “Unfortunately, there is a lot of groupism among the senior officers in the Mumbai police force. This kind of groupism is not good for the force. The State Government should take immediate steps to bring normality in relations among the senior officers in the force.”

SOME UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Did Mumbai Police or Maharashtra Government at all receive specific intelligence inputs prior to the 26/11 attacks?
  • Is yes, why no action was taken on the basis of intelligence inputs?
  • Did the Mumbai Police use a Standard Operating Procedure in responding to the 26/11 attacks?
  • What was Quick Response Team (QRT) of the Mumbai Police doing at the time of attacks?
  • Why did it take so long for Maharashtra Government to requisition services of NSG?
  • What delayed NSG in arriving in Mumbai and starting its anti-terror operations?
  • Did Taj and Oberoi-Trident have proper security measures in place?
  • How did the LeT come to know about Chabad House?
  • Did Mumbai Police have proper weapons to deal with such a situation?
  • How did then Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor use his senior officers in combating the attacks?
  • Is there a truth in Gafoor’s allegation that four of his subordinate officers, Parambir Singh, KL Prasad, Deven Bharti and K Venkateshan, failed in discharging their duty during 26/11 attacks?
  • Who sent Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar to Rang Bhavan lane, where they were shot dead by Pak terrorists Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan?
  • Why did senior police officer Rakesh Maria ask Kamte to head to Rang Bhavan lane when the fact remained that the latter had been asked by then Police Commissioner to come to Oberoi-Trident at that time?
  • Why no rescue teams were rushed to help wounded Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar?
  • Why reinforcements were not sent to Cama Hospital from front side?
  • Why did Maharashtra Government virtually bury Ram Pradhan Committee report?
  • Why does Gafoor’s allegation against four of his senior colleagues not figure in the Pradhan report?
  • Why did the Ram Pradhan committee not ask the four IPS officers against whom Gafoor has made allegations, to depose before it?
  • What does the Maharashtra Government have to say about allegations made by the widows of Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamte?
  • Why are the police not making public the log records of the Mumbai Control Room on November 26/27,2008 night?
  • Are David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana linked to the 26/11 attacks?
  • Did Headley and Rana pass on the video footage of Taj and Oberoi to their LeT handlers behind the 26/11 attacks?
  • Did LeT terrorists get any local support during the 26/11 attacks?


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