Whither Marine Police? Mumbai attack spotlights vulnerability

November 29th, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) The dramatic arrival of terrorists in Mumbai via the sea route has highlighted the vulnerability of India’s 7,516-km coastline and the need to strengthen the fledgling Marine Police - a force that took off in 2007 but is yet to materialise fully.Marine Police, whose personnel are to be drawn from police in various states, has been envisaged as the first line of defence along India’s coastline to patrol a radius of 10 km from the shore. Currently this area is secured by the Indian Coast Guard.

“The process of imparting training to state police is an ongoing process. So far we have trained more than 1,000 state police personnel,” Commandant Kulpreet Yadav, spokesperson of the coast guard, told IANS.

Sanction has been given for the setting up of 73 coastal police stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 barracks.

“About 58 of the 73 approved coastal police stations have already been made operational, which is a little more than the halfway mark,” said a senior coast guard official on condition of anonymity.

The coastal areas in the western region are considered more sensitive and intelligence agencies have voiced concern over the influx of militants into states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, both of which border the Arabian Sea.

These coastal routes coupled with the land border along Nepal and Bangladesh are the most preferred routes of terrorists to infiltrate and smuggle in arms and explosives into Indian territory.

The frenzied terror strike on Mumbai, during which 10 prominent places in the city came under attack late Wednesday and which spilled over into Friday, killing over 150 people, has underscored the glaring lacunae in the marine security of India.

The concept of Marine Police was mooted for the first time in 2006 against the backdrop of the 1993 terror attacks in Mumbai when large amounts of ammunition landed on the shores of the city undetected.

The concept finally took off in the beginning of 2007. The Indian Coast Guard was asked to impart training to state police and help them find their sea legs.

“We are also assisting in providing training in the operation and maintenance of the vessels that the Marine Police will be operating. These are extremely sophisticated and expensive vessels and even one small slip can prove costly,” the official added.

Under the force, coastal police stations are to be equipped with 204 boats, 149 jeeps and 312 motorcycles for increasing the mobility of police personnel on the coast and in close coastal waters.

So far orders for some 90 high speed boats of 10-tonne and 20- tonne class have been placed with various shipyards across the country.

Gujarat, which has a 1,600-km-long coastline, has so far received only one boat as against 30 modern boats sanctioned by the centre.

Once the Marine Police force takes off fully, the coast guard will be responsible for the coastal waters between 10 km from the shore and 50 km, with the Indian Navy guarding the waters beyond that.

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