Goa still a soft target for terror: defence officials

May 8th, 2009 - 4:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, May 8 (IANS) Numerous illegal landing zones, no proper mechanism to check trawlers, unverified migrant workers employed on board fishing vessels and a media-sensitive tourism hub, continue to make Goa a perfect, soft target for terror attacks, maritime officials said.
Speaking at a seminar on Homeland Security organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Friday, senior officials of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard were critical of the government for being lax on issues of maritime security and not doing enough quickly to ensure that effective defence mechanisms were in place to handle any terror threat from the sea.

Coast Guard Deputy Inspector General (DIG) M.S. Dangi said that even after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, the Goa government had not been successful in fully implementing security measures along the 105-km long coastline.

“There are nearly 40 illegal landing points, which function without the government’s permission. Each of these places need to be verified for security purposes,” he said, adding that surveillance needed to be mounted near these sensitive areas, which could be used to offload contraband or terror elements.

Dangi also said that the state government was dragging its feet over simple issues like issuing identity cards to fishermen operating in the numerous trawlers registered with the fisheries department.

“The identity cards are being issued at a slow pace. There are also several unauthorised fishing boats operating off Goa’s shores,” he said, adding that action taken by the Coast Guard (CG) against these unauthorized vessels and their operators, had resulted in a lot of acrimony between the fishermen and the coast guard.

“We are here to safeguard our coast. We will do our job at any cost. Security comes first,” Dangi said.

Flag officer Commanding - Goa area Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai said that while Goa was a soft target for terrorists, because of its tourism focused industry, red-tape had put paid to whatever decisions that were taken after the Kargil conflict vis a vis maritime security.

“The concept of marine policing was mooted after the Kargil conflict, but until today only two of the thirteen coastal states have a marine police force,” he said, adding that the marine police force in Goa was still in a fledgling state.

He further said that the formation of a National Maritime Commission, which was cleared by a Group of Minister (GoM) in 2007, was still entrapped in bureaucratic wrangles.

“The proposal has not moved forward much. There is an urgent need to synergise the various marine agencies like the ministry of shipping, Coast Guard, Indian Navy, etc. We are working at cross purposes right now,” he said.

Pillai also said that 26/11 should not really have come as a shock, because the sea route was used by terrorists to smuggle in explosives for the 1993 blasts in Mumbai too. “We should now be ready for the next attack. We should not be caught napping,” he said.

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