New Delhi: A lack of enthusiasm by the leadership in coastal states and a delay in utilising resources for securing India’s maritime interests has forced the Ministry of Home Affairs to carry out a comprehensive review of the scheme, top ministry sources told the Firstpost. In a meeting with Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, it was noticed that there was significant variation in the utilisation of resources allocated to different states and Union Territories, and subsequently, states did not provide enough finances for operations and maintenance of men and machines involved in safeguarding India's territorial integrity. With adversarial neighbors, non-State actors and illegal migrants posing serious security challenges, a structured and holistic approach was required — not only to modernise, upgrade and strengthen naval sinews, but also to plug loopholes in coastal security architecture.
"Poor capacity of state marine police forces and quite a visible lack of enthusiasm among senior leadership handling coastal security is the main trigger for this decision to launch a complete performance review of the existing coastal security mechanism. This will be a time-bound exercise with the states in which the issue of raising a Central marine force has been hanging fire for the last couple of years," sources said.
India has a coastline that measures around 7,500 kilometres, including 5,400 kilometres of coastline on the mainland and 2,094 kilometres on the islands stretching across nine states and four Union Territories. Among these are 3,331 coastal villages and 1,382 islands where at least four to five lakh boats are involved in fishing activities. The existing security apparatus covers 12 major ports and 200 minor ones, five major harbours and 23 minor ones, 95 landing centres and 27 single-point moorings.
According to sources, the government has been able to operationalise 200 coastal police stations, which have been equipped with 204 boats and also 30 jetties, communication equipment and over 800 vehicles with night operation capabilities for coastal states and Union Territories.
"The finances have been provided to the states to build required infrastructures. The work should be finished by 2020. The Indian Navy that is responsible for overall maritime security is operating from four main joint operation centres at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair. By now, more than Rs 2,200 crore has been allocated to strengthen surveillance and security capabilities in territorial waters close to the coast," said sources.
The issue of better synergy between different stakeholders has been debated since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks when attackers reached the country's business capital from Karachi undetected using a sea route. Certain issues were also flagged recently during a high-level security meeting. There is a separate role outlined for the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and state coastal police. The state police jurisdiction is limited to 12 nautical miles in shallow territorial waters, The Indian Coast Guard controls and guards 12 to 24 nautical miles and thereafter, the role of the navy kicks in. The Chief of Coast Guard is responsible for coordination between Central and State agencies.
A senior security official revealed that operational issues can be troublesome from time to time, like the multiplicity of agencies with overlapping jurisdictions that sometimes trigger slow responses, Another problematic issue is the delay in the creation of required infrastructure for trained police personnel in coastal states.
"That is why it is important to review the existing apparatus in the backdrop of operational challenges and threats to on shore and off shore installation. There is an urgent need to look into the issue of interstate coordination, intelligence-sharing among various stakeholders, additional training for state police personnel and difficulties being faced by them when it comes to operating in shallow waters. We have noticed that in some states, the police is ill-equipped to handle coastal security. At the moment, we cannot say that entire coast has been secured, despite spending so much money and time. A thorough review of the scheme will bring out fundamental lacunae that can be addressed timely," the official said.
Updated Date: Aug 16, 2019 08:42:57 IST