Armed pirates attacked Orien II, a barge carrying 22,545 metric tonne of yellow beans; owner claims that even though they asked for protection for consignment, it wasn't provided
The city's 7,600-km coastline remains as vulnerable as it was on the night of 26/11 when Ajmal Qasab and his accomplices made their way into the city.
Sea traders complain that even though security agencies have increased the measures they still remain sitting ducks to attacks, as the marine mafia has wreaked havoc right under the security agencies' noses. In the first week of November, the marine mafia attacked a barge and stole a consignment worth lakhs.
Confirming the incident, Raju Kundalia, director of Shree Krishna Stevedores Pvt Ltd, who owns a majority of barges that help in transporting goods, said, "One of my barges Orien II that was carrying a consignment of 22,545 metric tonne of yellow beans was attacked.
Raju Kundalia alleges that the dacoits have been wreaking havoc
since July and stole consignment worth Rs 3.5 lakh
The dacoits walked away with 402 metric tonne of beans worth Rs 80 lakh in just 20 minutes." Kundalia added that this was not the first incident and a similar episode occurred when dacoits made away with 1,809 metric tonne of pulses worth Rs 3.5 crore in the month of July.
Complaining of the local mafia, Kundalia said, "We have become sitting ducks for the mafia. They come in groups of 50 people in seven to eight fishing boats equipped with swords, choppers and sometimes with firearms. We have a small staff and tandels of the ship are facing increasing pressure in the face of such attacks."
Echoing the same sentiments, Omprakash Thakur, a tandel of SK 12 barge, said, "I was nearly attacked by a group of goons who attacked us when we were onboard. When I intervened, one of them twisted my arms and was about to stab me but I escaped and locked myself in the cabin."
Another tandel, Ravi Mishra of SK 14 barge added, "They operate in a fearless manner. Neither the cops nor do the coastal police matters to them."
Kundalia alleges that the local police and the DG shipping turn a deaf ear to such incidents. Elaborating further he said he has been constantly complaining about the high sea dacoits to the director general of shipping and Yellowgate police but to no avail.
On September 9, Kundalia filed a written complaint to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Port Zone) Tanaji Gadge (copy available with MiD DAY) seeking permission to depute armed guards on his barges. But he is yet to receive any reply.
Kundalia said, "As we were nearing the time to offload the consignment, we informed Yellowgate police and requested them to provide us with two armed policemen. But they refused to do so citing previous responsibilities. They don't understand that such incidents are marring our image in international trade circles."
Safety on The High Seas
After the 26/11 attacks, the state planned on buying 29 speedboats to protect the coastline. The government had decided to go for a comprehensive overhaul of the coastal security architecture and had drawn a blueprint of the proposal.
This included installing coastal radar surveillance network, a chain of automatic identification system (AIS) stations, setting up a special security force Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB), issuing fishermen identity cards and creating a maritime intelligence network NC3IN or the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence.
Also, employment of more trained personnel for the marine wing of the police is yet to be carried out, and the cops in the wing are sent for a brief training session to Indian Navy personnel.
The Other Side
When contacted DCP Gadge said, "I don't remember the information offhand. I must have forwarded the complaint to the local police seeking action."
Fed up with such increasing incidents, on Thursday, a delegation of clearing and forwarding agents met the Joint Commissioner of police Himanshu Roy seeking action against the marine mafia who has now assured them that he will look into the matter.