Sunday, 19 August 2012

Coastal Security Scheme

A Coastal Security Scheme has been formulated for strengthening infrastructure for patrolling and surveillance of country’s coastal areas, particularly the shallow areas close to coast to check and counter illegal cross border activities and criminal activities using coast or sea. The scheme is being implemented in all the 9 coastal States and 4 Union Territories from the year 2005-06.  
Under the scheme, assistance is been given to the coastal States and Union Territories to set up 73 coastal police stations which will be equipped with boats, jeeps and motor cycles for mobility on  coast and in close coastal waters.  The coastal police stations will also have a marine police with personnel trained  in maritime activities. Coast Guard is imparting training to the State Police personnel in maritime activities. 1

History of Coastal surveillance

The government’s approach towards coastal security has always been reactive and top down. Corrective measures were undertaken only after a major incident and implemented without preparing the environment at the ground level and thus enable them to function effectively. To begin with, large-scale smuggling along the western coast had compelled the government to establish the coast guard in August 1978 with a mandate to protect the maritime and national interests of the country as well as to assist in anti-smuggling operations. But the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai highlighted the fact that an inadequately manned and ill-equipped coast guard alone cannot safeguard the coasts. Instead of addressing the fundamental issue of lack of manpower and inadequate equipment, the Indian government launched a new scheme to cater for the terror challenge. This was Operation Swan, launched in August 1993 to prevent clandestine landings along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. It was a three layer security arrangement involving the navy, the coast guard and a joint patrolling team drawn from personnel belonging to the navy, coast guard, state police, and customs. While the underlying idea appears doable, the fact remains that Operation Swan has not resulted in a single seizure even after being for 18 years. Inadequate attention paid to overcome the basic problems of coordination, manpower, equipment, and motivation among the various concerned agencies at the ground level has been the main reason for this failure.

Even as Operation Swan was in progress, the Indian government launched yet another ambitious project - the Coastal Security Scheme in 2005, which involved setting up a series of coastal police stations to strengthen the surveillance infrastructure along the coast. The scheme was, however, a non starter because the coastal states did not display any enthusiasm in implementing it as they did not perceive any threat to their coasts. 
The severity of the 26/11 incident compelled the Indian government to take several measures to overhaul the coastal security apparatus. Yet again it insisted that the navy and the coast guard should pool their resources to guard India’s territorial and coastal waters. Over the last two years, various measures to strengthen coastal security have begun to be gradually implemented. 
However, incidents of ships drifting in the country’s territorial waters undetected raise questions about the effectiveness of all these measures. Here, it is important to reiterate that the problem lies not in the measures adopted but in the inadequate attention paid to the functioning of the system at the ground level where the actual action takes place. 2
  1. Sufficient attention has not been paid to provide the coastal police stations with essential requirements such as proper training to their personnel for sea operations, adequate fuel and funds for the running and maintenance of the boats, buildings for police stations, etc. 
  2. The respective jurisdictions of the coastal police stations and police stations located near the shores have not been communicated clearly to the personnel on the ground, leading to widespread confusion. 
  3. Information sharing and coordination between the marine police, coast guard and navy remain a problem. At present whatever coordination or information sharing takes place between the three agencies is largely based on personal rapport between the concerned officers. But this rapport has to be institutionalised. 
  4. It is essential for the police forces in the coastal states to shed their land centric outlook and turn their attention to coastal security duties as well.
An apex body on maritime security can be created which will bring about uniformity and coordination among the various ministries and departments dealing with maritime security. In this way coastal security can become sea governance. 3


3. Coastal Security as Sea Governance, The Hindu, 14th August 2012.

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