Eight years after the Mumbai terror attack, which left 166 dead and over 300 injured, the task of securing the city’s vast coastline remains work in progress.
Mumbai Police recently managed to procure over 20 thermal cameras for monitoring at night. The police have also written to the state government for setting up electronic surveillance-equipped operation centres at all the landing points and six outposts across its coastline. The police has also been allotted 2,000 square feet of land at Gorai in the western suburbs to construct its third coastal police station.
“The thermal cameras were a part of the CCTV project wherein 5,000 CCTVs have been procured for installation at vantage points in the city. Since they are thermal in nature, they will help us keep vigil on the coastline at night,” said a senior official. A thermal camera forms an image using infrared radiation.
The police have requested the government for operational centres at landing points including Juhu, Worli and Dadar.
“The centres will be equipped with monitors that will beam CCTV footage from the thermal cameras. The staff will have walkie-talkies apart from weapons and basic ammunition,” said an official.
“While the Yellow Gate and Mahim Sagari police station are fully functional, Versova Sagari police station was operating out of a rented premises. Recently we have been able to procure 2,000 sqm in Gorai and the work to build the police station will commence soon,” said the official.
Apart from the coastal police, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard also help secure the 7,500-km coastline. However, the fishing boats used to launch terror attacks remains the biggest challenge for the maritime agencies.
According to one estimate, 30,000 fishing trawlers are registered in Maharashtra, of which 8,000 are from Mumbai. The number of fishermen in Maharashtra is pegged at 2 lakh. Unauthorised boats have always been a concern for the security agencies. But now, with almost 90 per cent of the fishing trawlers being colour coded, the pressure has eased a bit for the agencies securing the 720-km coastline of Mumbai.
“The proposal of having colour bands for fishing trawlers was mooted in 2009. However, with fishermen not heeding the request, a proposal was made to offer 50 per cent subsidy to fishermen who abide by the rule. Within a year, 90 per cent of the boats in Maharashtra water limits have managed to follow the norms,” said an official.
Senior Coast Guard officials said the exercise of providing biometric ID cards to establish the genuineness of the vessel and crew while they operate at sea is also helping them. “We have been told that by December this year, all fishermen in Maharashtra will be given biometric cards,” said the official.
While Coast Guard sources said the coastal police had improved their surveillance, they are yet to achieve 100 per cent success in the Operation Sagar Kavach exercises. A bi-annual exercise, Operation Sagar Kavach was started in the aftermath of 26/11. In the drill, personnel from the Coast Guard pose as terrorists (red force) while the coastal police act as the blue force. The reds must ferry ‘explosives’ and ‘arms’ boxes and land on the coast, dodging the police and landing unnoticed, while the blue force has to foil the attempt.
“For the first time, we clubbed two states (Maharashtra and Goa) while carrying out the exercise. While the blue forces saw 85 per cent success in Maharashtra and 90 per cent in Goa, we are hopeful of 100 per cent success in future,” added the official.
The Coast Guard conducts daily random checks of around 100 boats across the coastline. “These drills are a part of Sajjak exercise, wherein we randomly check a fishing trawler, its crew. If we find anything suspicious, we hand them over to police,” said the official.
In 2008, the Coast Guard had 60 ships and 42 aircraft to patrol the coastline. Now it has 125 ships and 62 aircraft. Sources said that around 12 ships, which are indigenously built, are likely to be inducted in 2017.He told us, you leave the school but the school never leaves you: Classmates mourn death of Dileep PadgainkarPune: Woman files sexual harassment complaint against Congress MLA