Safe India: Only in dreams
Many terror attacks later, Centre and state governments are still planning about improving the security architecture. By the time ideas are translated into action, India remains vulnerable to more attacks
The recently-concluded World Badminton Championship in Hyderabad had some unsavoury moments. The England badminton team pulled out after media reported that the event was a target of a terrorist threat by Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Centre tried hard to assure there was no danger. To convince the world, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram bought a ticket from the counter and watched the finals of the championship from the gallery like any ordinary citizen. He was not escorted by security personnel. Earlier, he had assured that the event was absolutely safe. Yet, the UK team pulled out. By his own admission, Chidambaram was "burning inside" for that.
This is an indicator of safety concerns about sporting events in the country. The threat perception heightened after the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan. Security concerns cloud the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in 2010. According to reports, UK, Australia and Canada have expressed their dissatisfaction about stadium safety. While the sporting venues are being constructed in Delhi, there are no security personnel overseeing the work. There have been instances when militants have planted explosives during construction of roads, to trigger off an explosion years later.
It's not just the threat of terrorists from across the border. Home-grown terror by indigenous outfits is as much a problem. In the recent chief ministers' conference, the PM reiterated that the major security threat is from the Maoists. But, as yet, the government has been unable to take any concrete action to combat the Maoists. The joint operation in Lalgarh ran into a quagmire. Not a single Maoist leader of some worth could be arrested. The central intelligence agencies claim they provided actionable intelligence but the forces on the ground could not work it out. Forces operating in Lalgarh claim intelligence was mainly chatter and not always viable.
In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, central agencies claimed they had provided actionable intelligence to Maharashtra. But, it went unheeded. Senior state police officers say inputs by central agencies are not specific but general in nature. For instance, in the run-up to the independence day, state police units across the country are flooded with alerts from central intelligence agencies. According to these inputs, all vital assets and places are potential targets. "You don't need a premier intelligence agency to tell you that," said a UP police officer.
Intelligence units of the state police are in a worse state. They are regarded as punishment postings and not "lucrative". Those who have fallen from grace are "dumped" here. So, they are peopled with personnel who are either disgruntled or inefficient and looking for a way to get out.
Intelligence gathering requires sustained efforts over long periods. Sources have to be carefully cultivated and nurtured for years to get genuine intelligence. These days, the police forces have lost touch with people. So, they take shortcuts. Instead of working out a lead, police often pick up suspects on the basis of their religious identity, political affiliations and so on.
Recently, Chidambaram said that the Centre is considering setting up regional intelligence centres to train state intelligence personnel in intelligence gathering and analysis. It's high time, the states themselves took the initiative. So many terror attacks later, the Centre and state governments are still thinking and planning. By the time ideas are translated into action, India remains vulnerable to more attacks and deaths by insurgents and terrorists, both foreign and indigenous.