Gaping holes exist in coastal security

Gaping holes exist in coastal security


An agonising and nerve-wrecking 62 hours later, Mumbai breathed a sigh of relief. But the audacious terror strikes raised questions on India’s coastal security. 26/11 exposed gaping holes in the 7,500-km coastline, prompting the government to announce a series of corrective action to overhaul the coastal security. But not much has improved on the ground a year later. The holes are still visible. And it may take years before all the decisions are implemented. Bureaucratic tangles and lack of manufacturing facilities are crippling speedy acquisition of vessels and other systems.

Setting up of four joint operation centres at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair under four naval commands with links to the Coast Guard (CG), the Customs, the Intelligence Bureau, the Marine Police and ports was dubbed a key step forward. But compatibility between various agencies remains a bottleneck.
While the Navy and the CG are used to carry out simulated exercises and learn their pluses and minuses, the exercise culture is absent in the police organisations. Following 26/11, the Centre gave 3,000 additional people to the CG and sanctioned a new specialised force — Sagar Prahari Bal — comprising 1,000 navy personnel for protecting naval assets and bases.

The CG is in no position to fill up 3,000 posts within a couple of years due to lack of absorption capacity. “Finding and training manpower is our biggest challenge. To tide over the manpower crisis, we plan to set up a new academy exclusively for us,” said Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Coast Guard director general.
The Sagar Prahari Bal is yet to be raised. The training of the first batch is expected to begin in January, said a navy officer.

The government approved acquiring 80 Fast Interceptor Craft at a cost of Rs 320 crore for the Sagar Prahari Bal. In addition, the sanction has come for 74 vessels and four Dornier aircraft for the CG.

In the last one year, only one Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel and two interceptor boats were added to the CG fleet. Another six may be commissioned by March 2010. The government has sanctioned nine new CG stations, but only two at Karwar and Vadinar will be operational in the current fiscal.

A CG regional headquarter is functioning in Gandhinagar since September 2009. An air squadron has been activated in Porbandar in June 2009. There are plans to install automatic identification system transponders in fishing vessels with setting up of a network of AIS stations. To improve surveillance, 46 radars costing about Rs 300 cr are being installed along the coast including the Islands. But again, it may be a few years before the network is in place.

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