Another ministry?


Almost 13 months after the Mumbai terror attacks, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has come up with a suggestion to bifurcate his mega ministry. The objective is to create an exclusive internal security ministry. The bifurcation would entail separating departments which have no internal security functions, which, it is felt, is imperative for the innumerable security agencies to dedicate themselves to combat terror. Perhaps, this suggestion has come many years too late as terrorism has bled India.
Will setting up a dedicated ministry help address the terror challenge effectively? After every terrorist strike, our befuddled policy-makers have assured the nation that the intelligence agencies and the many police forces would be ‘strengthened’, ‘beefed up’ and ‘improved upon’. The country has also been told, ad nauseum and ad infinitum, that the security agencies would henceforth function effectively as the key requirement of coordination, which was always lacking, was being fixed. With each ghastly and deadly terror strike, the nation is promised necessary changes in the government’s strategies to prevent attacks and battle terrorists. And each time the government and its multiple agencies, working at cross purposes, fail. Needless to say that while pursuing such non-exercises and shadow-boxing, the government has ended up squandering tens of millions of tax-payers’ money. Many of the recommendations of a 2001 Group of Ministers on National Security have hardly received any attention.

This is not to dismiss Chidambaram’s suggestion. But what cannot be ruled out is that the suggestion could just end up enlarging bureaucracy which has a tendency to safeguard and protect venal interests of a decrepit and self-seeking, self-serving officials and staffers. Take the case of the National Technical Research Organisation which was set up in 2004 with an explicit mandate to provide key inputs to enhancing national security. There is no evidence of it fulfiling its mandate. It doesn’t even have a dedicated office building to start functioning. The end result is that it has virtually become place for reemploying retired bureaucrats. Creating another ministry to ‘restructure’ the national security architecture may not necessarily be a bad idea. But what is important for the government is to ensure accountability on the part of the existing bodies responsible to safeguard and strengthen our national security. The minister ought to consider this before enlarging the security bureaucracy.

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