Not ready for another 26/11

Once the dust has settled over the hanging of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Amir Qasab, it is time for the country’s security establishment to introspect whether we are capable of preventing another such attack. While no amount of preparation can be completely foolproof, there is an increasing degree of wariness that we may not be as well-guarded as we would like to be.

Soon after the 26/11 attack, the state government instituted the Pradhan Committee to pinpoint the loopholes in security and suggest measures to improve it. However, four years later, the state intelligence machinery has not been able to prevent either terror attacks or potential volcanoes such as the Azad Maidan riot on August 11 this year.

In July 2011, 27 Mumbaikars were killed (and 130 injured) when three blasts were executed by a terror group at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar in a span of 30 minutes. In February 2011, a blast at German Bakery in Pune killed 14. In August this year, four explosions struck the busy arterial J M Road in Pune.

Under the modernisation plan, the government had set up special unit of NSG commandos for Mumbai, added several coastal police stations and inducted a team of Force One commandos into the security establishment. However, the hardware needed to support them — CCTV cameras, bulletproof jackets and modern anti-terror arms and ammunition is still a distant dream. An utter lack of human intelligence is another major concern.

Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) grapples with a severe manpower crunch, and has, at times, traced robbers instead of terrorists. This personnel crunch has prevailed for nearly 30 months, yet there is no recruitment or streamlining of processes.

In a situation that screams for attention, the government authorities are either blissfully ignorant or hopelessly inept. Perhaps it is time for both the Central as well as state agencies to take serious stock and restore the confidence of the citizens.

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