All Talk and No Action Monday, April 21, 2008

Reading this brought back dark memories of 11/7 and the imminent human and financial losses.

I was in office on the fateful day. Suddenly, a colleague got news alert stating that a bomb blast had occurred at Khar Station and a police red alert had been sounded. Within the next several minutes we kept getting messages and images began flashing on TOI about the gruesome attacks at 7 stations in Mumbai.

A few friends had their parents using the railways to commute to and fro office. It was heartbreaking to see them undergo the ordeal.

174 dead. More than 400 maimed.

Next few days saw the country's top brass holding hushed meetings, sound bytes given by intelligence agencies, news coverage and detailed analysis ranging from intelligence failure to crumbling infrastructure to huge and unmanageable population.

Then came editorials and chain mails espousing "Mumbai's indomitable sprit".

Finally, life resumed its course and most people went back to their routine schedules. Some with signs of indignation, many with signs of indifference and most with resignation to fate.

The memory still triggers emotional and agitated reactions in most of us.

Time and again, I have wondered why we often end up as soft targets. India has probably been one of the worst victims of terrorism. Yet every time we seem to miss the lessons.

Instead of facing the problem head on and taking stern action and remedial measures, our polity has always been escapist and lethargic at best. I do not think we should label such incidences as "Intelligence Failure" alone. In most cases, we have had prior warnings and signals. But it's preventive action that we fail at miserably. We have known the existence and mushrooming of sleeper cells in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and other major economic hubs of India. We are also aware of how well connected these terrorist outfits are and how very simple it is for them to raise finance.

What's scary is that these people are now in the mainstream. For all I know, I could be traveling with one and be blissfully unaware.

The bomb blasts were deemed to be an intelligent and meticulous strike. I do not think so. It was the easiest and the simplest task on earth. If you want to hit and make Mumbai bleed – target its lifeline – the Railways! Timing was perfect too – evening 6 – to inflict maximum fatalities.

A careful study shows that terrorists have changed strategies from religious terrorism to economic terrorism. Instead of attacking places of worship and breaking the tolerant fabric of India, they now target symbols of our prosperity and economic freedom. Their future targets would be educational institutions, stock exchanges, hotels, SEZs.

Are we prepared?

Though the answer might sting and give us nightmares, but to be fair and optimistic - our preparation seems to be rudimentary at best.

Khar Police station is a stone's throw away from the railway station. Yet, it took more than 20 minutes for our forces to gather some sense and reach out to the bleeding masses.

Also, there is a widespread disconnect and alienation with affected areas.

How far has the government gone to relieve people from naxal attacks (More than 20% of Indian districts are inflicted with Naxal presence)? Does the disenchanted and jobless youth from Hyderabad and other affected areas from South India figure on the polity's radar? Why is it that seemingly smart and intelligent youth join extremist Organizations?

It's this widespread inaction and lack of sympathy that has lead to many people taking up arms. The government has failed miserably to address their issues.

Also, we have always been keen to appear as "Diplomatic" and "Correct". Why please our neighours at the cost of national security? Why can't we put our foot down and demand punitive action? More so, why do we keep cribbing and sending polite reminders to our neighbours to correct erring terrorist orgs? What is it that keeps us from cracking down these miscreants on our own?

How far has the government gone to promote Anti Terrorism Squads? How well is the public aware of such organisations and the various options available to it? Does it know how to respond to such acts of violence? Are there any formal channels of redressal?

Is a budget of 1000 crores not enough to defend the nation?? What use are our 2nd largest Standing army and 4th largest Air Force if we cannot serve the public? If people do not feel safe while traveling or shopping? If people become cynical and stay with fear !A sea change in attitude and action is required to fight this menace of terrorism.

Any thoughts on how and what we as responsible citizens should be doing?


Anonymous said...

Basically we are cowards. What else explains the fact that we were ruled by foreigners for about a thousand years. Mahatma Gandhi understood this cowardice really well and hence the bogey of non violence was so popular. It was a perfect camoflague for our cowardice. Today "non-violence" has been replaced by "indomitable spirit". We dont care if they blow us up because we have an "indomitable spirit". This gives us a perfect execuse of doing nothing and carrying on with our life when we face any tragedy.

And hence I cannot agree with you more that a sea change in our attitude is necessary or else this "indomitable spirit" will only hurt us more.

Shyam said...

Yes the government should be more proactive in its steps to make it safer for the citzens in general but do you really think that stopping terrorism is that easy??? Just tell me how difficult is it to conduct such an event....yes 9/11 took lots of planning but still it did happen in the supposedly most secure country of the world then surely we cant be too harsh on the beaureucrats on this one...
But yes sometimes there is a a lapse in basic security... last month i was supposed to go to cal via delhi transit, where i shifted from international airport to domestic...what was so astonishing to me was that i went outside the airport with my suitcase to make a call and then came back but the security gaurd ddidnt even inpect or stop me ...what if i had a someone outside who helped me with a small parcel to be put in the bag and boom there goes another 100 odd people

Mr BS said...

I donno about the BIG things that the govt can do here...but there are lots of basic things that are missing in India...
Like applying RULES and sticking to it...
The mentality of the aam-junta is always to not abide by it or find loop-holes in it first and foremost.....

Also some of the small steps that would really help here are maybe...

i) Eradicating Corruption : Corruptions exists in India and hence people can almost get away with everything they do. But at some levels they can be very dangerous.
For eg, passport issual. Now only if we had a good, well-defined and rigid way of people getting passports, it would help a lot. As things stand now one can easily have 10-15 passports if he/she wishes. You pay the police and there is no verification at all.
And lemme admit, I did pay the police official for my passport to avoid any hassles and once that was done, he didn't even bother coming to my (rented) flat for verification!! Now I can justify myself by giving 100 reasons why I did that, but I probably know that it was my mistake too..
btw I had paid the money to speed up the procedure and to ask them to come for verification only on Sat / Sun b/c on other days I wont be @ room when they come for verification..

Or as an another example, you can do N number of crimes and never be in the bad books.

ii) Having SSN or something like that : In US, (almost) everything a person does basically can be tracked thro his SSN. And having something like that too would help in maybe identifying some suspicious "people" by way of bank transactions and things like that. This might not stop any such things but it might at least help somewhat.

btw..the second point was for two reasons...
So that u can be BOAST the fact that somebody from the US is commenting on ur blog, that your blog is truly GLOBAL...... always feel nice to be in the US and say...
Hamare yahan... :D

All Talk and No Action said...

Yes, I agree with whatever you have said...sometimes the morale booster mails and talks are nothing but a sham to cover our weaknesses

Though 9/11 could not be prevented...but the US made sure that it took all the necessary steps to contain went ahead n made strict regulatory checks at airports...even at the cost of displeasing politicos from various nations...
Problem with India is - the cheapest thing available here is Human Life...absolutely worthless

When I got my passport made..I made sure I did not pay a penny to the officials..why should they earn which is not theirs?
Also, charity begins at yes, the govt needs to be blamed, but its citizens who should help in curbing corruption!
One should be the change one wants to see around..rather than adding on to the mess.