Hey Ram! Pradhan committee on 26/11.

Ram Pradhan, a former Governor and Union Home Secretary and V Balachandran, a retired IPS officer, were asked to probe 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks with a view to find what went wrong with the police & administrative response. IE in 2 parts expose (I & II) based on committee’s report, which is presently confidential state secret, highlights the major findings.

Part I of the expose lists following findings :

•No one had any idea of the “significance” of Nariman House.

•There were five patrol boats, controlled by DCP (Port), which were to have been patrolling the area where the terrorists landed. However, it’s now known that all these patrol boats were in the Worli area where the Machchimar agitation against the Worli Sea Link project had been under way since November 24, 2008.

•Quick Reaction Teams: The QRT is the best-equipped and trained unit in the Mumbai police to respond to such attacks. It was trained for three months under the NSG in 2003 when it was raised, but they are said to have told the committee that they received no hostage-rescue training at NSG’s Manesar training facility. More significantly, they have not had any firing practice since September 2007 because of “shortage of practice ammunition”. Not just that, they had only 24 bullet-proof helmets for 56 personnel.

•Flying Squads: Maharashtra had created 100 flying squads of motorcycle-borne commandos in teams of two each, of which 46 squads were meant for Mumbai — 92 cops trained in martial arts and armed with more sophisticated weapons than the regular police. The committee is said to have found that this system is now in “disuse”. There are still 58 policemen set aside for the job but they played no role in the 26/11 operations.

Part II adds following to the list.

•No ammunition for firing practice — the last lot received: 45,000 AK-47 rounds in 2005.

•The team that first entered the Taj Hotel had all of one SLR and one .303.

•Bhagwat Kacharu Bansode, the first police officer to enter the Trident, had one revolver.

•Deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal — in his earlier stint back in 2000 — made it mandatory for every vendor to be approved by the Deputy CM’s office (his office) for any police purchase beyond Rs 25 lakh.

•Sadanand Date, Additional Commissioner of Mumbai’s Central region, whose pistol did not work when he and his team confronted the terrorists at Cama Hospital.

•Ammunition worth Rs 65 crore is needed if a cop must fire at least 40 rounds annually. But only Rs 3 crore was received every year for the past five years, leading to serious lack of training.

•Indian Ordnance Factory may have stopped making .410 Muskets and .303 rifles but the Maharashtra government’s draft weapon policy to change to AK47s, 5.56 Insas Rifles, 9 mm carbines and 7.62 SLRs received “in principle” approval only last June.

Had above list been produced by outsiders, by that I mean strangers to the game of policing, then one would have applauded it as ‘earth shattering revelations. Coming as it does from old hands from IAS & IPS, who reached top rungs of bureaucracy; it can only be termed as a confession of dereliction of duty. Even a casual acquaintance with our police force will point to following facts.

Priorities for police force (descending order).

  • Protect the rulers of India from PM downwards to district level to ensure they don’t come to physical harm, attend to innumerable VIP movements & cocoon them from the indignities & inconveniences that is the lot of ordinary Indians every waking or sleeping hour.
  • Ensure order in cities during festivals of all origins, agitations of all description – such as against outsiders from UP & Bihar, desecration of a place of worship or a statue, state boundary disputes – etc., political gatherings & shows of strength, mass gatherings at cricket matches, musical shows & cultural events. (List may be expanded suitably).
  • Ensure order in villages & countryside when poor people protest against forcible acquisition of their land, denial of age old livelihood occupations, cutting of access to water courses or forest produce, etc.
  • Conduct mass drives such as nakabandi, vehicle checks, tenants’ verification, etc. so as to impress on public police preparedness against terrorism.
  • Registering of crimes & investigating them, whenever time permits, if at all.
  • No scope in all this to tackle relatively modern menace of terrorism.

Working conditions of police force (non IPS).

  • Extremely long working hours stretching up to 14 to 16 hours a day round the year. Weekly offs & Holidays cancelled at the drop of hat.
  • No time to spend with family, exercise or generally attend to physical fitness or mental well being. Highly stressed out, poor guidance & leadership at work, no clear cut guidelines for performing various duties, day to day workings smack of ad hoc decisions & suit the wishes of political masters, etc. are the factors that make up the work culture. Treated in inhumane fashion, police behave inhumanly with populace.
  • Generally speaking police force is encouraged to prey on public for their financial needs as well as greed (in the latter case will come most of bureaucracy). Allowances are meagre and many times these too are not paid or if paid, then with arbitrary deductions. Police often called upon to take accused out of town either for investigation or for court appearances have to meet travel costs through ‘suitable arrangements‘ or these are often met by the accused themselves.

This sorry state of police force is not of recent vintage. It has been so for long since. If at all, things have become worse. It is difficult to imagine that Pradhan & Balachandran were unaware of it. If so, it has uncharitable implications. Almost all the factors that IE has reported from the report have been known all along. It is a mystery why a committee was needed to tell what was already known.

It is a miracle that Mumbai police could or did respond at all to the terrorist strike or so many among them showed such an exemplary courage.

Turning to few factors that are not systemic :

  • Nariman point significance : post facto everyone is wise. Like Nariman point there may be a few other Jewish homes in Mumbai alone let alone in rest of India. If the glaring failure is there, it is of the politicians & administrative services. The significance of the ‘systemic failure’
    that has been commented upon even by a few government committees on police reform needs to be nailed. Those responsible must be made to account for it.
  • 5 missing patrol boats : were they with DCP(Port) for anti-terrorism duty or general surveillance of the docks from smuggling or thievery point of view? Secondly, even if they were for anti-terrorism duty, a higher priority – containing unrest due to Machchimar agitation – took them away.

There is a crying need to separate the crime investigation, including white collar crimes, & anti-terror role from other policing priorities and these need to be handled by a separate force with relevant training & equipment.

O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O

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