Bomb squad head clueless about explosives

He doesn’t know how to identify, detect and dispose of bombs. In his 35 years as a cop, he hasn’t received so much as an hour’s training in anti-sabotage exercises, and has no expertise in averting or managing crises brought about by terrorism. His name is Ramesh Keni, and for the last two months, he has been heading our terror-prone city’s Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS).

Ramesh Keni, senior inspector
Pic/Bipin Kokate

54-year-old Senior PI Keni is expected to guide his subordinates and act as the main contact point for any kind of security given to VVIPs. But in a sad travesty, the man has admittedly no idea about any of these tasks that require tremendous expertise and skill.

Keni was also the main contact point for the Special Protection Group (SPG) that had arrived in the city to screen the security arrangements before the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s arrival last week. He accompanied some of the SPG officers who scanned Singh’s planned route in advance.

When contacted, Keni, who started his career as a cop at age 19, confessed that he lacks any kind of training in the detection and disposal of explosives. “In my 35 years of service in the police force, I haven’t undergone any training in identifying and detecting explosive, leave alone specialised training to dispose of explosives.”

Keni added, “Two months ago, I was transferred from the Local Arms II in Tardeo to the Protection Branch at Vaju Kotak Marg. In another two days, I was asked by my superiors to take charge of BDDS. I am part of a force, I can only obey instructions from my superiors and so joined BDDS on June 8 this year.”

He added, “From June 21, 2012, I was also given additional charge of heading the Technical Branch, which is specially trained to conduct anti-sabotage operations.”

Keni is also in charge of all 12 BDDS squads deployed at offices of the 12 zonal deputy commissioners, comprising 164 policemen. In his capacity as head of the squad, he is expected to participate in tendering procedures to procure equipment for bomb detection and disposal. At one such meeting conducted at the headquarters of the State Director General of Police, Keni was conspicuous by his absence, sending his subordinate officer instead, who had received training in explosive detection, identification and disposal.

At present, the BDDS office near LT Marg police station is the base for 41 staff members, including 14 dog handlers. Most of them have been given basic training in detection of bombs, but only four officers – a police inspector and three sub-inspectors – have undergone specialised training for disposal of explosives.

In case Keni’s immediate subordinate is absent, it is he who will have to take charge, said an officer who did not wish to be named. He added, “The team head needs to think, plan and set a classic example of a good leader, as his subordinates look to him for support and guidance. It might be challenging if the leader himself is untrained or lacks adequate knowledge of the subject.”

Colonel (retired) Mahendra Pratap Choudhary, who has trained Mumbai Police commandos in combating terror, said, “This is absolute foolishness and wrong in every aspect. With no specialised training and experience, the officer heading the BDDS is useless to that squad. In turn, the entire squad is rendered useless.”

Deputy Commissioner and police spokesperson Nisar Tamboli said, “I cannot comment on the issue, unless I make an inquiry with the concerned office.”

Attempts made to contact Additional Commissioner of Police (Protection and Security) Madhukar Pandey did not yield result. An officer superior to Keni attached to the Protection and Security Branch clarified that Keni has been appointed to handle administrative tasks at BDDS and his duties do not extend to operations.

He also admitted that Keni is too senior in years to be sent for specialised training that is mandatory for officers and policemen attached to BDDS.
He admitted that a leader with additional experience in explosive detection and disposal would indeed make a huge difference.

Special task, special skills
Specialised training that police officers and constables are expected to undergo before joining the BDDS
>> 15 days anti-sabotage training at Ramtekdi, Pune
>> 1 month of specialised training in identification and handling of explosives at ITBP Training Centre in Mussoorie
>> One-and-half months of specialised training at NSG Training Centre in Manesar
>> Some officers are sent to USA and other foreign countries to undergo advanced training on bomb detection and disposal. Such training camps last for about a month.

On call
Anti-sabotage work undertaken by BDDS unit in Mumbai from January-July 2012
Anti-sabotage checking for VIPs and VVIPs: 543

Anti-sabotage work undertaken by BDDS unit in Mumbai from January-July 2012

Total number of bomb calls received
and responded to: 189
Total number of bogus calls received: 189
Total number of bombs found as per bomb calls received: NilĀ 

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