Proximity to Pakistan and perceived terror treat to ports in Gujarat have prompted the state government to spruce up the security infrastructure across the trade-gateways by giving consent for raising a special armed battalion of State Reserve Police (SRP), which will consist of 1,200 personnel and cost Rs 165 crore.
Currently, around 280 personnel of the Gujarat Industrial Security Force Society (GISFS) stand guard at nine non-major ports that fall under direct control of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), the state’s nodal agency for ports. While security at the only major port, Kandla, is looked after by the Indian Coast Guard and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), private ports like Mundra, Pipavav and Hazira have their own security personnel.
The GMB currently has around 19 operational ports in the state and it had handled almost 340 MMT (million metric tonnes) of cargo in 2015-16. While nine of them have GISFS cover, there are a number of ports — including non-operational ones — that are either unguarded or have GMB’s “chowkidars” manning the gates.
“In 2004, we had approached the CISF to help guard our ports in Gujarat, which is very near to Pakistan. A lot of correspondence was exchanged seeking help for implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code),” a senior state government official.
“However, in 2009-10, the CISF rejected our proposal saying that it was too overstretched guarding vital installations in Gujarat. The GISFS has been helping us guard our ports all these years. Currently, around 280 GISFS personnel guard nine ports that fall directly under the purview of the GMB,” said the government official.
However, as the GMB was finding the GISFS cover inadequate, a proposal was moved in January 2016 during the first board meeting of the maritime body, held this year. This proposal sought permission for raising a SRP battalion.
“The Gujarat government granted approval to the GMB for this project in April. Now, the modality for raising this battalion that will consist of six companies of 200 men each is being worked out,” said the official, adding that the land was being identified near Bedi port to build the headquarters for this new force.
This issue also cropped up during the ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament, when MoS Home Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha, “The process of raising State Reserve Police Force of 1,200 security personnel to secure all GMB non-major ports is underway. The Government of Gujarat has granted approval to the GMB for the same vide, letter dated April 22, 2016.”
As per the GMB’s proposal, the raising of a new battalion will entail a one-time cost of Rs 165 crore, which is required for acquiring land, building residential quarters, salaries, buying equipment and others.
It also entails an additional annual expenditure of about Rs 70 crore. “Who will bear this cost is still being debated,” the official added.