House panel finds coast porous

House panel finds coast porous

'State governments have failed to learn lessons from 26/11 attack'

Issuing identity cards to fishermen, registering fishing boats and installing instrument identification system in large fishing trawlers were some of the key measures the government took to secure 7,500 km of coastline after the Mumbai strike by terrorist Ajmal Kasab and his mates, who landed in Mumbai in a fishing boat.

Karnataka state, which has close to 80,000 fishermen, has issued biometric identity cards to less than 15,00 fishermen in the last three years, too little to plug its coastal vulnerability and amounting to completion of just 1.7 per cent of the task on hand.

In the 13 coastal states and union territories in all, no identity cards have been issued in six, including Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal, who have close to seven lakh fishermen. Ditto is the case with Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Maximum progress was recorded in Puducherry, with more than 60 per cent of the 37,148 fishermen receiving biometric identity cards. Close to one-third of fishermen identified in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have received identity cards, while in Goa the coverage stood at 21 per cent of the 13,362 fishermen.

Kerala too clocked 21 per cent coverage though it has a large fishermen population of 2,40,305. Post-Mumbai attack, the Union ministry of agriculture provided Rs 72 crore to a consortium led by Bangalore-based Bharat Electronics Ltd to collect data on fishermen and tag them with biometric identity cards.

Card readers were to be issued to the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies.
The defence ministry identified 16,75,398 coastal fishermen for the issue of biometric identity cards. Data on 10,15,001 fishermen has been collected and the process is on in respect of another 5,62,662 coastal fisherfolk.

The ministry is silent on the remaining 97,735 fishermen. On the registration of fishing boats, the defence ministry told the House panel that Coast Gu­ard was not even aware of the number of fishing vessels and their registration status though the process  began in February 2009, within months of the mumbai terror strike.

Barely any progress has been made in the third component which is the fitting large and small fishing trawlers with radio frequency identity tags, satellite-based tracking system and automatic identification system.

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