Policemen with sticks guard ISBT against terror attack! (Third of a series on how safe is the Indian capital)

December 8th, 2008 - 10:35 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) The first thought that came to my mind as I stood at one of India’s busiest bus terminals watching the crowds and the innumerable buses come and go, was that the terrorists who had held Mumbai to ransom were armed with automatic guns. The policemen I saw deployed here were armed with bamboo canes!At eight in the evening I was standing at the entrance of the Kashmere Gate Inter-State Bus Terminal, and announcements were being made on the public address system for passengers to be careful about any suspicious item or person around them.

As I stepped into the busy bus terminal, an unarmed policeman checked my bag with a hand held metal detector and without any frisking, allowed me to move towards the departure terminal. I joined the thousands who daily commute from the ISBT.

As I walked to the departure terminal, my eyes fell on a CCTV camera - it was covered by spider webs.

The circular departure terminal was bustling with activity, with over 100 buses waiting for passengers, and conductors shouting and ushering passengers in.

By half past eight I had seen hundreds of people come and go, but I hadn’t yet spotted the men in khaki (policemen).

Curious and a little worried, I walked up to a juice stall and asked the vendor about security arrangements at the ISBT. He shook his head sadly.

“Madam, what security are you asking about? So many people come and go at the ISBT and we have just a handful of policemen. We are at god’s mercy,” said Moti Lal.

The feeling of those coming to the ISBT was similar.

“There are no proper security arrangements here and anything can happen any time. This place can be easily targetted,” Ritul Kaur, a passenger, said.

As I looked around the departure terminal, I at last spotted a constable.

He was sitting in a corner holding a stick. I walked towards him to ask about the security arrangements here.

“We have just 30 policemen here who work in two shifts. At one time almost three to four constables are present at the bus terminal to look after the security,” the constable said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“You can imagine how difficult it would be to secure such a big area where people come from various states,” he added.

My next destination was the police post at the ISBT terminal, where two drunk men were pleading to be released.

According to the police, there are 32 CCTV cameras fitted at various locations at ISBT. However, they turned down my request for a visit to the CCTV monitoring room.

When asked about the policemen deployed at the ISBT and how prepared they are for any terror attack, another police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said: “To be very honest we cannot do anything with the limited resources.”

“We are really short of staff and we need more than 100 policemen to manage the security. We don’t have enough weapons. There are few rifles and the constables at the ISBT are usually armed with batons to deal with any untoward incident,” he added.

However, the officer said that they have put in a demand for X-ray machines, mechanised barriers and ‘tyre killers’ - spiked strip to puncture tyres -, but the request had been kept pending for lack of funds.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Sagar Preet Hooda, however, told IANS: “There is tight security at the Kashmere Gate bus terminal and we have increased vigil following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai.”

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at richa.s@ians.in)

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