Resounding failure

Resounding failure

The most serious terrorist attack since 26/11 in Mumbai has exposed the continuing vulnerability of the Indian public and the inability of the Indian state to protect lives and property. The serial blasts at three places in Mumbai has taken 22 lives and injured many more people. The numbers do not measure the depredation. The toll is high as it is, but it is fortuitous that it is not higher.  Even a single life lost in a planned operation that could not be prevented is a question mark and a sign of failure of government.

The common argument that terrorists can choose their time and place of attack does not absolve the state of its responsibility to the people. Home Minister P Chidambaram has ruled out any lapse on the part of intelligence agencies. The Maharashtra government has said there was no credible intelligence. But the problem of credibility is with those who make the claims, the assertions and the denials.

We see the same charade every time there is an attack and killings. The prime minister speaks to the chief minister, the home minister appeals for calm, all go to the site of the attack, the police name some suspects and claim they are working on various clues.

Alerts ripple through everywhere. There is also the promise of upgrading all official machineries -- intelligence, police and everything — and catching the killers at the earliest. But the record speaks for itself. There were five major terrorist attacks in the country after 26/11. In spite of all capability-building, investigations in all these cases have not produced results. When capability-building has not seen results in other areas of government activity,  failure to prevent terror is no matter of big surprise.

The failure is only part of a larger failure of governance. When the government is in a continuous scandal-fighting mode, its basic functions take a back seat. The prime culprit in Mumbai, however,  is the state government. If the Centre failed, the state failed more.

It was the duty of its government, more than of all others, to keep the city, which has been the most frequent target of terror, safe for life and work. But it has seen only tentative governance for many years, with chief ministers, including the present one, being planted as improvised political devices in problematic situations. But it may be a fruitless job finding degrees of blame when all are in it in different ways.

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