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Glare on coastal security gaps

- Proposal to set up 13 more marine police stations moves at snail’s pace
A watch tower on Puri beach. Picture by Sarat Patra

Bhubaneswar, April 26: The vulnerability of the 480-km state coast to terrorist attacks has come into focus with intelligent inputs indicating that Indian Mujahideen operatives could target the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri.

On the security of the 12th century Jagannath temple and the suggestion made earlier about watch towers around the shrine, Puri superintendent of police Anup Kumar Sahu said the towers that had come up were badly built. “You can’t stay up there in the heat for more than half an hour,” he said.

Not only shrines such as Jagannath temple and Sun Temple at Konark are located along the state’s coastline, but also major defence establishments such as proof and experimental establishment, a laboratory of the Defence Research Development Organisation and two missile test ranges are also housed there.

“It is always desirable even though we don’t have high profile targets here like Mumbai. Making marine police stations functional would be useful,” he said.

The presence of Indian Navy, the coast guard and regular security drills notwithstanding, there is a growing concern over lack of policing along the coast. The vulnerability has grown over the years with only five marine police stations becoming functional in the state.

While a variety of problems are plaguing most of these units, which would constitute an important security layer on the coast, little has been done to translate the proposals of setting up 13 more marine police stations into reality. The proposals have been stuck largely because of land or construction problems.

Sources said five marine police stations at Balramgadi in Balasore, Dhamara in Bhadrak, Paradip in Jagatsinghpur, Jambu in Kendrapara and Arijipali in Ganjam have been functioning indifferently. Staff crunch has hit the police stations at Balramgadi and Arijipali, and their patrolling boats often remain out of order.

While the unit at Balramgadi is being run with about 40 per cent of its sanctioned staff strength, the Arjipalli one, too, remains handicapped. An assistant sub-inspector, supported by five havildars and seven constables, are managing the show here in the absence of a full-time inspector. The police station should have six sub-inspectors, six assistant sub-inspectors, 16 havildars and 48 constables.

Of the 13 proposed marine police stations hanging fire since 2011, four are to be set up in Puri, three in Kendrapara, two each in Bhadrak and Jagastsinghpur and one each in Ganjam and Balasore districts. Sources in the state police headquarters said four of these — Penthakata (Puri), Talchuan (Kendrapara), Kasafala (Balasore) and Patisunapur (Ganjam) — were the department’s priority.

While the project at Bandara under Balikuda block in Jagatsinghpur district is making good progress, the Sandhakuda one on Paradip outskirts has failed to move because of a land tangle. Similar is the case with two marine police station projects at Talchua and Tantiapala at Rajnagar tehsil in Kendrapara district. “Part of the land in these cases falls under forest category, which is the main problem. The projects’ money, is, thus, lying idle,” said an official.

Of the four proposed marine police stations at Penthakata (Puri town), Astarang, Arkuda and Chandrabhaga (Konark) in Puri district, not a single one has materialised. “In our case, neither land nor money is a problem, but we need a seaside or river mouth site with sufficient depth to facilitate a jetty where the patrolling boats can be anchored,” Sahu said.

The proposed 13 police stations would together require 1,729 personnel. But sources said that so far, only a sanction of 324 posts for four police stations had been made. As for the remaining nine, the finance department has been approached for the creation of posts. “Building construction, too, will be a problem in several cases,” said an official.

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