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Measures to strengthen coastal security put on fast track

Anwar Ehsan Ahmad** [IAS.Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs] India has a coastline of 7517 kms. of which, more than 5400 kms. is the length of the mainland coastline. Keeping the vast coastline safe and secure is a major responsibility undertaken by the Coast Guard, the State police and the Navy. Following the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, when attackers entered the city through the sea route, a major revamp of coastal security has been attempted, ongoing initiatives galvanized and new initiatives undertaken.

Progress of the Coastal Security Scheme

A comprehensive Coastal Security Scheme was approved in January 2005 for implementation over a five-year period commencing 2005-06. This scheme, based on the recommendations of the Group of Ministers on ‘Reforming the National Security System’, was formulated after consultations with all agencies concerned including State Governments. The Coastal Security Scheme, which is a supplemental initiative, aims at enhancing coastal vigilance by strengthening infrastructure for patrolling and surveillance of the coastal areas of the nine coastal States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal as well as in the four Union Territories of Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Under the Scheme, 73 coastal police stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 operational barracks have been approved. The Police Stations will be equipped with 204 vessels, 153 jeeps and 312 motorcycles. A lump sum assistance of Rs.10 lakhs per police station has also been approved for computers and equipment, etc. The approved five-year outlay for the Scheme is Rs.400 crore for non-recurring expenditure and Rs.151 crore for recurring expenditure on fuel, maintenance and repairs of vessels and training of personnel. Under this scheme, manpower is to be provided by the concerned coastal State/Union Territory. The implementation of the scheme is being done by the concerned State Governments/UT Administrations.

Construction of 35 coastal police stations has been completed and work is in progress in another 16. Additionally, the construction work is also in progress in respect of check posts, outposts and barracks approved under the Scheme.

All the coastal States and UTs have sanctioned the requisite executive posts to be deployed with the coastal Police stations etc. The technical posts for the motor boats have also been sanctioned by all the coastal States and UTs. The recruitment process is underway. This Ministry, in consultation with Ministry of Defence, has finalised and circulated crew-structure for the boats and their remunerations, for guidance/compliance by the States.

The procurement of interceptor boats is being done centrally through two PSUs viz. M/s GSL, Goa and M/s GRSE, Kolkata. Ministry of Home Affairs has signed a contract with these vendors in March 2008 for supply of 84 (5-Ton) boats and 110 (12-Ton) boats. So far, funds to the tune of Rs. 122.41 crores have been paid to the two shipyards.

As per the original delivery schedule, supply of the boats was to commence from April 2009 and completed by April, 2011. But, after the 26/11 Mumbai incidents, a need was felt for expeditious supply of boats to the States/UTs. Accordingly, the delivery schedule of the boats has been compressed by six months and delivery of all the boats will now be completed by October, 2010.

The supply of interceptor boats has started from April, 2009 and the two shipyards are delivering boats as per the month-wise delivery schedules submitted by them. As on December 31, 2009, 66 boats have been delivered and the remaining 138 will be delivered by October this year.

Comprehensive Review of Coastal Security

Subsequent to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26/11, the entire coastal security scenario of the country has been thoroughly reviewed by the Government. Several high-level meetings were held in the Ministries/Departments of Home Affairs, Defence, Shipping and Fisheries, etc. to review the coastal security arrangements of the country and address related issues. This included an inter-Ministerial meeting and a video conference, taken by the Cabinet Secretary in February and June, 2009. The Union Home Secretary also reviewed the coastal security of the country in December, 2008 and June, 2009. The Defence Minister reviewed coastal security in the meetings held in March, May, June and November, 2009.   During these meetings, several important decisions/ initiatives in respect of maritime and coastal security of the country were taken.

With a view to ensuring timely implementation of various decisions taken by the Government in respect of coastal security of the country, the Government has constituted a ‘National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security against threats from the Sea’ with Cabinet Secretary as the Chairman. The committee consists of representatives of all the concerned Ministries/Departments/Organisations in the Government as well as Chief Secretaries/Administrators of the coastal States/UTs. The first meeting of the National Committee was held on September 4, 2009, wherein, the progress of implementation of all the major decisions in respect of the coastal security was reviewed. The various decisions taken in these meetings are being followed up by the concerned agencies.

Formulation of Coastal Security Scheme (Phase-II)

The coastal States/UTs have undertaken vulnerability/gap analysis in consultation with the Coast Guard to firm up their additional requirements for coastal security, as a prelude to formulation of Phase-II of the Coastal Security Scheme. The Coast Guard has been involved in the exercise and recommended the setting up of an additional 131 coastal police stations along the Indian coastline. This includes upgradation of 20 existing Police Stations in A&N islands. Based on the inputs from the States, Coast Guard etc., the contours of the Coastal Security Scheme (Phase-II) are under finalization.

Registration of Boats

The Government has decided that all the fishing/non-fishing boats plying in Indian waters need to get registered under a uniform system. The Department of Shipping is the nodal department in this regard. Two notifications, one for amending the MS (Registration of Fishing Vessels) rules alongwith a revised format for registration and another for notifying the list of registrars, were issued by the Ministry of Shipping in consultation with the Ministry of Law in June 2009. States/UTs are taking follow-up action in this regard.

Installation of Transponders on Boats

It has been decided that all type of boats would be fitted/provided with navigational and communication equipment to facilitate vessel identification and tracking. The Department of Shipping is the nodal department for this. The DG, Shipping has issued two circulars to ensure that all types of vessels including fishing vessels other than those of less than 20 mtrs. are installed with AIS type B transponders for the purpose of identification and tracking. A Group under the chairmanship of the Nautical Adviser has worked out the specifications of the AIS transponders required for installation on fishing vessels and submitted the same to the Department of Shipping for further action.

In addition to this, a Committee under the DG, Coast Guard, has been constituted to suggest type of transponders on vessels of less than 20 mtrs. length. The Committee has decided to carry out NCNC trials of suitable tracking systems for sub-20 mtrs. boats, which are:-

Satellite based

AIS/VHF based, and

VHF/GPS based

The reports of these trials are awaited.

The Ministry of Shipping is also processing the establishment of a coastal Automatic Identification System chain in a time -bound manner.

Issuance of ID Cards to Fishermen

All fishermen would be issued ID cards which would be relatable to a single centralized data-base. The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries which is the nodal agency is taking necessary action in this regard in consultation with all concerned. The uniform format for data collection for ID cards has been finalised and sent to all the Coastal States/UTs with the request to commence the data collection process.

A Consortium of Public Sector Undertakings, led by Bharat Electronics Limited, has been offered the task of digitization of data, capturing of biometric details and digital photo and designing and manufacturing of biometric ID cards for fishermen. The detailed proposal received from BEL on 26th August, 2009 is being finalised in the Department of Fisheries.

Multipurpose National Identity Cards to the Coastal Population

The Registrar General of India is working on a project for issuance of Multipurpose National Identity Cards to the population in the coastal villages as part of its project for creation of National Population Register (NPR) in the coastal States/UTs ahead of Census 2011. The NPR for coastal areas is proposed to be made ready during 2009-10.

For the first time, direct data collection methodology has been proposed to be undertaken for the project. This will be done with the assistance of central PSUs namely BEL, ECIL and ITI jointly through the State, District and village level functionaries. The data collection in seventy coastal districts has started from July 2009. Biographic details of around 66 lakh persons have so far been collected while biometric capture has been completed for about 19 lakh persons. The biometric data collection is expected to be completed by March, 2010. In some of the States, however, the biometric capture could spill over to the month of May, 2010.

It is expected that the various measures taken for strengthening coastal security will help prevent the 26/11 type of attacks on our country.

*Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs

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