New Delhi, Dec. 24: Since the Bombay blasts in 1993, when police suspect much of the RDX was transported into the city on small fishing vessels that landed on a little-used spot along the beach, security agencies have been warning the Centre about the vulnerability of the countryís 5,422-km coastline.
The home ministry has now drawn up a plan to put in place a coastal security system. However, the costs are huge and much depends on the response of state authorities. Officials said many states, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, have taken North Blockís concerns seriously.
The post-Godhra riots and the Narendra Modiís election victory have placed Gujarat high on the terrorist hit list. Maharashtra, with its large underworld, is another likely target.
Centre and state government officials have held several meetings to draw up a security plan for the nine coastal states and four Union Territories. Although the needs of each state are different, the Centre has directed all to keep a few parameters in mind.
The states have been asked to identify vulnerable areas on the coast and beef up patrolling there. The Centre has also advised state authorities to establish police outposts and, if possible, police stations in the identified areas. These posts have to be equipped with vehicles, boats, communication equipment and weapons as well as adequate manpower.
A marine police cell in each of the coastal police stations is a must. These cells have to be manned by personnel who are good swimmers, especially trained to survive and stay afloat in the high seas. Special intelligence capabilities in coastal police stations, to gather information on landing of contraband, arms and ammunition and drugs as well as movement of people, is another necessity.
The Coast Guard has been requested to prepare a model on coastal security and to recommend standardised specifications for boats and equipments needed for coastal patrolling by states.
In addition, the defence ministry proposes to install a chain of static sensors along the coast in a phased manner, the most vulnerable spots being the first to get them. The sensors will be installed in the existing lighthouses with minor modification and little extra cost.
A vessel traffic management system is being set up in approaches to ports and channels to monitor and control movement of ships.
In the past, the Centre and the states would keep tabs on the coasts mainly to stop smuggling. But now the fear of terrorists using the coasts to bring in arms and ammunition and threaten national security has made the Centre sit up and realise the importance of guarding the coastline.