Sunday, July 24, 2005

Act fast to prevent Bangalore facing a London-like situation

Act fast to prevent Bangalore facing a London-like situation
H.S. Balram
The Times of India

The Karnataka government has at last woken up to the fact that Bangalore is a soft target for terrorists and it should be protected at any cost. It took a 9/11, a 7/7, terror attacks in the North, Naxalite menace in the South and several alerts from central intelligence agencies for the realisation to sink in. Vidhana Soudha, the seat of power, is being fortified. And security at key installations, public buildings, places of worship and reservoirs is being stepped up. Though late, it is a wise move.

After Delhi and Mumbai, the country’s political and financial capitals, Bangalore, the IT capital, faces a big risk of terrorist attack. The world is looking at Bangalore with both respect and envy, thanks to the strides that it has made in software. Top IT companies have set up shop here and employed a large number of people with high salaries from across the globe. The city also houses sensitive defence units and science organisations. A terrorist strike, like what London experienced, will cripple this economically progressive city.

What is a terrorist’s motive? To kill, destruct, create chaos, scare people, and unsettle security forces and governments. He doesn’t mind killing himself in the process. Take the London tragedy. Hundreds of innocents were killed or injured in blasts triggered by terrorists in buses and underground trains. Life came to a standstill. Citizens were put to a lot of hardship. Communities to which the suspects belong lived in fear of reprisals. Terrorists achieved their purpose. But Londoners will take weeks and months to get over the trauma.

Is Bangalore fully equipped to handle such a situation? In London, cameras are installed at every corner. Not only do they help monitor traffic movement but also track suspicious characters. After the 7/7 blasts, Scotland Yard had pictures of the four human bombs in a matter of hours. And after the second blast, they were able to track and shoot dead a suspected suicide bomber. It has at its command all the facilities that victims need in such situations.

Bangalore may be growing fast but its security forces are not equipped with modern gadgets, weapons and ammunition. They are perennially short of staff and funds. There are no clear-cut strategies to deal with situations like the one in London. Traffic jams make it impossible for emergency services, if any, to reach the spot on time. Ambulances are few. Gas cutters and other equipment to rescue trapped persons are scarce. Intelligence agencies most often fail to warn about an impending disaster. In contrast, terrorists are equipped with the latest gadgets, have a superb intelligence network. They hoodwink the police and reach the target without any difficulty.

Merely posting security men at key installations is not enough. Bangalore’s administrators must secure state-of-the-art equipment to track terrorists and other criminal elements. Keep the police force battle ready. Educate the personnel about how to deal with terrorist attacks. Appoint more staff, provide them with latest gadgets, post upright and efficient officers at checkposts, and install cameras at key points all over the city. Private companies, particularly IT giants, must strengthen their own security measures. Citizens too must cooperate and help the police in identifying suspects, In short, Bangalore must come under a high-security umbrella. Better to act now, than panic later.

Boycott threat
Infrastructure woes continue to torment IT companies in Bangalore. They feel that despite assurances the government has not speeded up efforts to widen and repair roads, finish incomplete flyovers and underpasses and improve public transport. Their employees waste a lot of time in commuting to office or meeting customers. In protest, many companies have decided to boycott this year’s premier IT showpiece event, Bangalore Last year too they had decided to boycott the event, but relented because of assurances. Bangalore’s image will take a beating if the government doesn’t crack the whip and get things moving fast. Let not Bangalore turn out to be Bangalore IT.out.


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