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Coastal Security Arrangement in Maharashtra: An Assessment

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  • May 15, 2009
    Fellows' Seminar
    Only by Invitation
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Rajaram Panda
    Discussants: Vijay Sakhuja

    The paper discusses the overall coastal security arrangement in Maharashtra. The first part of the paper deals with the evolution of the coastal security mechanism in the state. Section two evaluates the deficiencies, inadequacies and shortcomings in this mechanism. An assessment of the security measures that were announced by the central and state governments in response to the Mumbai attack is also highlighted in the paper.

    The paper argues that awareness about the vulnerability of the country’s coasts first arose in the wake of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, when it was established that the explosives used were smuggled in through the coast at Raigad in Maharashtra. This led to the launch of ‘Operation Swan’ with the aim of preventing the landing of contraband and infiltration along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. Further attention to coastal security was given after the Kargil Review Committee’s recommendations for a comprehensive reform of the security set-up. It came in the form of a Task Force on Border Management, with coastal security being a part and parcel of it. The Task Force recommended, inter alia, the setting up of a specialised marine police in the form of coastal police stations, augmentation of the strength of the Coast Guard in terms of personnel and material, the formation of fishermen watch groups, and the establishment of an apex body for management of maritime affairs. On the recommendation of the Task Force, the central government launched the Coastal Security Scheme in 2005-06.

    A three-layered patrolling system is operational to secure the Maharashtra coast. At the outermost layer, the Indian Navy patrols the high seas and carries out aerial reconnaissance with ship-based aircraft. The intermediate layer comprising of the Exclusive Economic Zone (between 12 and 200 nautical miles) is patrolled by the Coast Guard. And the territorial waters are patrolled by joint coastal patrolling teams comprising personnel drawn from the Customs, the State Police and, till 2006 from the Indian Navy.

    26/11 happened in spite of this multi-layered coastal security mechanism. Lack of ‘actionable’ intelligence has been widely attributed as the main reason for this failure. But there are certain inherent inadequacies in the coastal security mechanism, making it incapable of preventing infiltration through the coast. These deficiencies are:

    • Insufficient Manpower
    • Poor Training
    • Inadequate Infrastructure and Equipment
    • Insufficient Resources
    • Systemic Flaws

    To address these issues, the paper put forward some policy recommendations to the Maharashtra government. Some of these are:

    • Manpower shortage could be addressed by recruiting retired Coast Guard and Navy personnel.
    • People from the coastal villages could be enlisted in the coastal police force.
    • Incentives such as special allowance and insurance could be considered for police personnel engaged in coastal security.
    • Specialised training is needed for the Coastal Police.
    • Further, the central government needs to clearly spell out areas of jurisdiction of different agencies engaged in coastal security and ensure coordination among all agencies by establishing a central command system.

      Issues Raised in the Discussion:

      • Lack of governmental sensitivity to the importance of the coastal security.
      • Lack of coordination between state agencies and central agencies. There are too many agencies dealing with security, and there is complete lack of coordination. There is turf war between these agencies. There is no command centre.
      • The overall responsibility of coastal security should be given to the Indian Navy.
      • Greater use of technology for surveillance in sea and coast is required.
      • Legislation authorizing the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy to arrest criminals at sea needs to be formulated.
      • The proposal for a Maritime Advisor is a welcome development.
      • There is need for improving police infrastructure.
      • Corruption in the implementation of security schemes is rampant, and their implementation needs to be closely monitored.

      Prepared by M. Amarjeet Singh, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.