Stop the blame game. The thing to do now is not to sit and blame those irresponsible and imbecile politicians (we all know that most of the Indian politicians are worthless money eaters who will stoop down to any level just to get money) but to analyze the situation and derive the ways and methods by which we can improve ourselves and our security.
They say mistakes made should be utilized to learn from them and then never to commit those mistakes again. In our case we have committed and almost always never learned from them. Be it ignorant and corrupt politicians or the lax security, this time we have paid the heaviest price. I do hope that it is time this lackadaisical attitude of the governing bodies towards the security of the nation and the state changes and we adopt a more firm and direct approach to securing our nation.
The height of vote seeking politics was when certain heavyweight politicians arrived at the attack site and gave full-fledged political speeches. If these people do not want to do something for the people at least they should have had the common sense to stay away from such sensitive sites. By arriving and delivering speeches, they not only made themselves viable targets for the terrorists but also stretched the already stressed security! If any of these terrorists would have gotten a politician between their crosshairs (Oh! How I wish they had!) , again the security personnel would have been blamed.
However, enough of the blame game now. It is not time to cry over spilt milk and decide whose fault it is. What has happened has happened; let us look at what measures we can take in the future to reinforce our brave police personnel and also how certain simple precautionary measures can make their job easy!
1. No doubt the security personnel who laid down their lives and as well as those who fought hard and won the day for us are respected and their sacrifices shall never be forgotten. But the question is, can we afford more martyrs? Do we need more martyrs? What can be done to prevent and minimize the deaths of outstanding and good soldiers?
· Develop Special Teams:
i. Instead of sending in the regular police into the attack, special teams should be developed especially for hostage crises such as these. The inspiration can be drawn from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams of the US Police or the GSGN which were founded after the 1972 Munich Olympic attacks. The Mumbai Police Commandos can be easily trained and upgraded to be made into a special team which will tackle such situations.
ii. Moreover, instead of depending on other security bodies like MARCOS, Army and NSG and valuable time wasted in their arrival on the scene and understanding the situation can be prevented if the police had its own hostage situation team.
iii. Initially the NSG was established in Delhi and was going to be similarly established in the West, East and South India so that each part would have its own special force which would react quickly and thus minimize casualties and eliminate terror threats. But as Govinda has said in a song, “It happens only in India” that good plans remain only on paper and never materialize. For some reasons unknown to the common man, NSG was never established in other parts of the country and is till date.
iv. Another option would be reviving this plan and developing an independent NSG for each part of the country thus reducing the reaction time.
· Body Protection to the fighters:
i. To ensure that they get maximum protection during such attacks armor of the best quality should be provided. The current bulletproof vests worn by Mumbai Police were so obsolete that they were not even enough to stop AK-47 bullets. Moreover, majority of them were torn at places, the metal plates used as armor were rusted and in some cases the armor vests were unwashed and stank badly.
ii. Bulletproof jackets should be such that they should provide protection for vital body parts. They should protect not only the chest, stomach and back but also provide protection from the sides, protect the shoulders, neck (like the jackets worn by NSG and MARCOS do) and also the groin. Moreover, elbow pads and knee pads are also essential for protecting and preventing injury to these crucial joints.
iii. For the head, ballistic helmets should cover the head, forehead, ears and part of the neck. A good choice would be the helmets used by SWAT. These helmets look like bike helmets but are specially designed for combat. They are painted with a shine-less paint which does not give away the soldier. They have a reinforced bulletproof glass to offer protection to the face and also have a HUD.
· Good communication devices:
i. The Indian police as well as security forces use obsolete communication devices. The NSG commandos after the operation said that they could not communicate with each other because the terrorists might discover their presence. Throat mikes which sense the vibrations of the skin around the vocal cords and not the voice and air coming out of the mouth provide relatively noise free communication. Moreover, soldiers can speak in very soft tones but can be yet clearly heard and understood by their team mates.
ii. These mikes are available as a belt which can be wrapped around the throat and the ear set can be put in the ear. SWAT teams extensively and successfully use throat mikes during their operations.
· Good and Modern Weaponry:
i. As was seen on 26 November and as was observed previously the Indian Police lack the firepower to combat trained terrorists with sophisticated, modern and automatic arms. They still carry vintage .303 rifles and revolvers. Some of them do have pistols but still they are of no match to the AK-47s and the HK MP-5 carried by the terrorists.
ii. It was due to this that over 100 RPF personnel found it difficult to combat the terrorists at CST as they had SLRs which were no match for AK-47 rifles of the terrorists. It is not that they did not give their best; it’s that they were plainly outdone.
iii. It was due to the lack of good arms that a sub inspector bravely shot at the terrorists with his service revolver and was killed in the retaliatory fire.
iv. Scenes outside the Taj Hotel showed the policemen wearing no head protection but only bulletproof jackets and armed with only pistols!
v. If the ruling powers provide the police with modern arms and in sufficient quantity then such instances can be controlled and the terrorists neutralized quicker.
vi. Moreover, good equipment like smoke grenades, CS gas canisters, flash bangs and good night vision goggles must also be provided.
· Good surveillance and monitoring equipment:
i. As of now, major cities in India have limited visibility as regards to surveillance. Limited visibility implies less units of CCTV cameras or other cameras. We should provide maximum possible visibility to our policemen and other agencies so that their jobs become easier and they are not dependent on manpower only.
2. It was reported by many MARCOS and NSG that they had no plans of the targeted buildings available and hence had to move around and absorb the details and adapt to the environment while at the same time rescuing the hostages and neutralizing the terrorists while the terrorists knew every nook and cranny of the buildings. There is a simple solution to that will help our brave soldiers to plan well and take on the terrorists even more efficiently.
· The government should make it mandatory for all builders and constructors to file their building plans and layouts which should be stored in a common repository accessible to all security agencies. Of course these plans will be stored on a database which will be backed up daily. Traditional methods of storing hard copies should be done away with as they not only waste manpower but also occupy unnecessary space.
· A system should be developed which will enable to store the plans according to various categories of buildings like heritage sites, residential, commercial etc.
· Whenever a situation arises then the concerned security force should be able to access this repository and retrieve the plans. Once the layout has been obtained then planning an operation will be a lot easier as the commandos will already know the layout of the building.
3. The job done by the media in covering the events was really commendable. The media has greatly assisted the governing bodies in the announcement of special emergency phone lines which enabled the troubled citizens in contacting their loved ones. If there was any need for blood at any blood bank then the media was at the forefront requesting donations and thus helped in saving many lives. Moreover, their constant coverage of the incidents and on goings was greatly useful to the people. However, unknowingly one mistake was committed by the media and also the police.
· The media was closely covering each and every move of the police, MARCOS and NSG but somehow the police and the media failed to realize that this coverage could be seen by the terrorists from inside the Taj, Oberoi or Nariman House on television sets. By doing this the terrorists could anticipate the moves of the security forces and make the job of hostage rescue and terrorist elimination more difficult.
· It would be utterly wrong on my part to blame the media for the casualties that took place but such close coverage should be avoided in future so that we do not give a chance to the terrorists to gain an upper hand anywhere, anytime during the battle.
This according to me can be done to improve the fighting power of the police force. Also I am sure these observations will be helpful if in future a special team of the police is developed on the grounds of SWAT.
They say nothing is impossible and I do believe that. We come from the land were people have been making the impossible possible. Ours is the land where a thin and simple man wearing a towel around his waist drove away the mighty British. Ours is the land of Shivaji Maharaj, who built a kingdom out of nothing and successfully fought three big empires. Ours is the land of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who suffered exile just to build an army that would liberate India from the British shackles. Ours is the land where a supercomputer, Param was built indigenously when the USA refused to provide us their supercomputer.
I believe that in the land of these great men we can do anything if we stand together. Remember United We Stand, Divided we fall.
This work by Pranjal A. Wagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.