Coastal security in Gujarat has been severely jeopardised by issues like dysfunctional coastal police stations,insufficient patrolling and failure to take off projects like satellite-based vessel tracking and warning systems,states the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its latest report.
The countrys highest level audit watchdog has found severe lacunae in the coastal security arrangements made by the Gujarat government. Gujarat has a 1,640-km-long coastline,stretching across 13 districts. Due to its sea route proximity to Pakistan,it holds a very high strategic importance from the perspective of internal security of the country, stated the CAG report on the General and Social sector,which was tabled in the Gujarat State Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
CAG found a deficit in planning the states coastal security. Jamnagar and Kutch districts are at utmost proximity,with maritime border of Pakistan and hence sensitive for coastal security. However to cover the entire 238 km coastline of Kutch,only one coastal police station (Mundra) was established (July 2007). Similarly in Jamnagar,the entire stretch between Dwarka and Harshad was left without any coastal patrolling, stated the report that points out that long stretches without police presence could adversely affect coastal security.
In the absence of demand from the state government to the GoI,dedicated jetties (for coastal police stations) were not constructed to maintain secrecy (of police operations). The marine exclusive intelligence and investigation wing at each coastal police station,as envisaged in the Standard Operation Procedure,were also not established, the report stated.
In the absence of dedicated jetties,the coastal police utilised those owned and controlled by Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) or private entities. Joint field visit to some of these jetties revealed that they were inappropriate for smooth and secure operations. For instance,patrolling at Bedi and Bhavnagar port was possible only during high tide as the ports remained dry during low tide. Similarly,jetties at Somnath and Porbandar were very congested and were also used by local fishermen,while the GMB jetty at Okha was very badly damaged.
CAG also found that night patrolling was negligible on the Gujarat coast as no specific criteria for such patrolling was fixed by the state government. Though the GoI had allotted 30 interceptor boats to Gujarat (May 2009-January 2012),there was a shortfall in patrolling by about 78-91 per cent in the eight coastal police stations that were test-checked by the auditor.
CAG was very critical about the poor monitoring of 1.40 lakh fishermen and 22,000 fishing boats that go out to sea from the 102 marine fishing centres on Gujarat coast. The Vessel Tracking System (VTS) and issuance of biometric identity cards to fishermen failed to take off (in Gujarat), the report states.
To caution Indian fishermen before they approach the international boundary,the state government decided (May 2008) to provide satellite-based VTS to 12,000 fishing boats and Rs 46 crore was placed at the disposal of Gujarat Maritime Board for procurement of the system. However GMB has not even finalised the tenders for the purchase of the system (June 2012), the report read.
The report was also critical of the state governments move to distribute 86,000 biometric cards to fishermen in the absence of sufficient infrastructure required for it. Non-availability of card readers with coastal police defeated the whole purpose, CAG stated.
The auditor also found the system of issuing Boat Movement Token (introduced by the state in September 2009), to each fishing vessel venturing into the sea,riddled with loopholes. The purpose of watching the movement of fishing boats and its crew members on security grounds was defeated as the fisheries guards did not physically cross-check the details furnished by the owner of the fishing vessel; for instance,the identity of the fishermen on the boat.
CAG also found that little action was taken to train the coastal constabulary and that trained personnel were posted for other duties. It also found that most coastal checkposts and outposts remained dysfunctional due to shortage of staff.