Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is the City geared up to face bigger challenge?

Is the City geared up to face bigger challenge?
DH News Service, Bangalore, DHNS:
The eight serial blasts of low intensity in the City caused no substantial damage to property and the loss of life was limited to one.

But the explosions were high enough to expose Bangalore’s vulnerability to larger threats, and raise serious questions about the City’s ability to manage man-made disasters.

It was clear that, despite crores of rupees being spent by the State government on armchair discussions on disaster management, the mechanism existed mostly on paper.

Fire Force and Home Guards officials had recently announced that emphasis was being laid on disaster management and the government was roping in around a lakh volunteers in the State. More than 10,000 would be in Bangalore alone to manage any untoward situation, they had claimed. But forget the thousands, the authorities themselves were groping in the dark at the crucial moment.

Rumours reigned over the City as the authorities did not even have a clear picture of the blasts — number and timing — even hours after the explosions.

The government had created a civil defence chief warden post and picked up an ex-military person for the post which carries perks including a car, orderlies and office. But when the moment of reckoning came, Bangaloreans had only rumours and themselves to fall back upon.

When contacted, Home Guards and Civil Defence authorities said the work related to the blasts were dealt with by the City police. The Fire and Emergency Services had acted on the spot and done what they were supposed to do. The Home Guards and Civil Defence was only a special invitee. “So far, we have not been invited for any special meeting by the Chief Minister. So, there is no role for us right now,” said Khalil-ur-Rahman, IGP, Home Guards and Civil Defence.

Warnings, but no action
The 2005 shootout at the Indian Institute of Science had clearly indicated that Bangalore was not prepared at all for a large-scale terror attack. But that did not improve matters. The latest round of blasts has only reiterated the short comings in police’s capacity to strike back and preparedness.

Top brass in the Anti-terrorist Cell and the State Intelligence stressed one point: the Karnataka police are the most efficient and highly skilled personnel in the country, but their energies are utilised just to nab thieves, dacoits, accused in different crimes and to solve murder cases. Most of their time is utilised for bandobust activities, managing traffic, providing security for VIPs and so on.

Said an official in the Intelligence Department: At present, the police department is facing shortage of manpower. The government has not provided them with sophisticated weapons. Many restrictions demoralise them from acting quickly, he added.

The need of the hour is to train the policemen to tackle terror-related eventuality. Terrorists are using several means to strike. They are well-equipped in terms of weapons and technology. When terrorist can easily acquire the latest technology and weapons, why not the police, he wanted to know. It was high time the government strengthened the Anti-terrorist Cell, he said.

The police should keep strict vigils at all the entry points to the City and be alert in the areas which could provide safe hide out for terrorists. Major crowded areas like railway station, shopping malls, bus stand, airport and other public places should be kept under alert, he suggested.


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