|It’s not just intelligence|
|Monday, 18 July 2011 00:00|
Given the news coming out of Mumbai, the big surprise is how the city had such a long respite from terrorist attacks after 26/11. Apart from obliquely criticising his alliance partner which runs the home ministry in the state, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan let everyone know how bad things were when he said he couldn’t contact the police chief for 15 minutes after the blast as the mobile networks were congested—satellite phones are now to be ordered. Whether these will get bought is a question in even Chavan’s mind. He said he hadn’t been able to procure even the 5,000 CCTVs he needed, not because he didn’t have the money, but because the systems for procuring were too clogged, the system was so focused on the cheapest bid, officers were scared to put their recommendations on file at a time when technology was changing so fast—at some point, these could be the subject of a CBI/CVC/CAG inquiry. Chavan’s solution was to try and pass on the procurement to the Union government—if you’re buying a weapon, he requested, just add on what we need in Maharashtra. But, as he said, “even in Delhi it takes a very very long time ...”
Nor is the problem restricted to just procurement—and we know a lot of that planned in the wake of 26/11 never got bought, or maintained. The idea of a National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), which would link 21 data sets to provide 24x7 information to intelligence agencies, was floated after 26/11. NATGRID got mired in red tape, a third of the staff quit in disgust and its chief was about to retire without getting it functional—the new target is January 2013. The fate of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, again proposed after 26/11, to get all intelligence agencies under one boss, is worse—many felt their powers would get transferred to an all-powerful home minister, so that died a quick death. The idea will get revived once again now, we’re told.
While it’s early days on the investigation, there are turf issues of various investigating agencies, not just from the Centre but also those within the state—Maharashtra’s Director General of Police competes with Mumbai’s Police Commissioner (PC) for power in the city, and the chief of the police’s intelligence wing has an almost equal status to the PC. And then there are the new agencies like the Anti-Terrorism Squad and a Quick Response Team. Add to this the multiplicity of civic authorities! The specifics differ for each city/state in the country, but the larger problem of a paralysed governance set-up is common. And it doesn’t just affect the fight against terror.