In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, if there is one thing we take up with seriousness, I hope that is upgrading our internal security – police, NSG, intelligence – and other organizations that contribute to it.
After Mumbai, my friends have been burning the wires online and on the phones. There is anguish, some anger but the overwhelming reaction is that we need to do something. A couple of my friends are IPS officers. Much of this post will be quoting them or channeling them.
This new style of terrorism – sophisticated yet brazen – requires higher levels of sophistication in battling it. The terrorists who are used to finding chinks in the armor of the American security apparatus, are the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai and made it look so easy. Don’t be fooled by the name they gave the media. Laskhar, Taliban, al Qaeda – they are all names given to different parts of a terrorist cooperative that shares weaponry, training, technology and indoctrination.
The question then becomes – can we tackle global terrorism with a third world police force?
India has 1-2 policemen per 1000 people. The US has over 5 per thousand. That itself would have been a gap we could have worked with, except that a US policeman is supported by over $100,000 worth of equipment. His squad car for example, is modified to be fast, sturdy and replete with on-board computing and communications gear that makes him very effective in fighting crime. And the Indian policeman? Well, I’ll quote one of my IPS friends,
You will be surprised to know that even today many of our police stations do not have vehicles. As for connectivity amongst police stations is concerned, while police stations (PS) have radio communication sets (RT sets), in some states the PS do not have an extra battery to keep the sets working! This means that they switch on their RT sets every two hours to check if there is any event of any consequence!!! This is when even the poor in our country can afford mobile sets!!! We still have weapons that are outdated. We have no centralized database to check on the identity of the person detained. This implies that if I detain a suspicious person in Delhi and he says that he belongs to some village Begumangalam in district Nalgonda in AP, I have no way to immediately verify his identity – unlike the US where a centralized databank will let you check his antecedents in a matter of few seconds.
The situation at our Intelligence agencies is worse.
IB and R&AW have suffered 40% vacancies in top-level supervisors
(IPS officers) for more than a decade now and 50% vacancies at levels
of SI and Inspector!
Much of this needs money, of course. But it also needs a change in outlook. Central and state police departments are not used to sharing information with each other. How long should we wait before they can overcome their turn issues.
In 2000, post-Kargil a Group of Ministers made a report to realign and resolve India’s security infrastructure – red tape killed it. To get over the red tape, the PM in 2005 announced the Police Mission to reform the police system – red tape killed that too.
Organizational change needs strong leadership. Or a crisis. We had to wait for the latter to happen.
In spite of all this, terrorists and criminals are still apprehended. What happens when they are? For a long time, nothing.
We kept Maulana Masood Azhar in our jails as an undertrial for 6 yrs and released him to the Kandahar hijackers. He is the current big boss of the LeT in Pakistan. Why did the judiciary take so much time?
That has got to be the most depressing thing for a police force – to see a dangerous terrorist, that they worked so hard to catch, released because we took our own sweet time in trying him.
To clear that backlog of cases again takes money and willpower.
I don’t think this is due to a paucity of funds. I think it is a matter of priorities.
Why was Karkare’s BP jacket inferior to the NSG BP jacket in this day and age when Indian citizens pay Rs. 5 trillion in taxes?
How this money is allocated should be based upon national priorities. Which vested interests do we force our rulers to abandon should be based upon national priorities. And clearly, the number one national priority today is security.
photo credit Roochster