All Talk and No Action Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yesterday I attended a seminar on "Fight Against Terrorism", organised by the Mumbai Police.

I had gone in, expecting to listen to the Mumbai Police Commissioner, D Sivanandhan, a man I have come to admire.

However, I was quite surprised and very happy to learn about other panel members -

  • M. K. Narayanan, Governor, West Bengal
  • B Raman, Former Addl. Sec, Govt. Of India
  • Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
  • Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, Former Director General., CSIR
  • G. Parathasarathy, Foreign Policy Expert
  • D Sivanandhan, Mumbai Police Commissioner
  • A. N. Roy, Director General of Police, Maharashtra
M.K Narayanan & B Raman are two stalwarts, whose prose I regularly feed on.

Out of all the speakers, B Raman, Dr. Mashelkar & G. Parathasarathy came up with some fabulous pointers.

I mention some interesting points that emerged from yesterday's discussion -

B Raman
  • Mr Raman pointed out the need to talk about our successes. Though our intelligence has failed at crucial times, given our proximity to unstable nations, we have done a good job at averting disasters
  • Every time an attack happens, we shouldn't be citing the example of the US/UK. Each country is unique in its circumstances and a "one size fits all" strategic policy doesn't apply to all nations
  • Victim Activism: US & UK have had very strong victim lobbies. After 9/11 every major congressional debate was attended by relatives of victims. They participated actively in the discussions, asked pointed questions to the Presidential Candidates and demanded solutions. Some even sued the governments of the Middle Eastern countries, to which the 9/11 terrorists belonged. Overall, citizens are more actively involved in maintaining law and order and often tip- off the police and security agencies in case of suspicious activities. India needs a strong activism of this sort - following up and fighting for the lives of one's near & dear ones needs to be taken seriously
  • Public/Pvt. Partnership: After the London Bombings in 2005, the private sector came forward and shared the cost of development and initiatives. The elites in the US & UK, often share valuable resources with the government. In India, the elites are the most indifferent of the lot
Dr. Mashelkar
  • Dr. Mashelkar spoke about his involvement with many universities and companies which were working on path breaking technologies, which could be used for better security management and intelligence inputs. Most of these innovations depend on cheap inputs/raw materials 
  • Again, the need for an active and involved citizenry was pointed out. The youth of the nation is far more aware and it is about time the government took it into confidence, to face the menace of terrorism
  • A billion people should not be looked at as billion mouths to feed, rather a billion minds to work for the country. An example: A unique way of solving the Kandahar Hijack would have been to let loose some chemical gas, which would have made everyone unconscious. This idea was expressed by Dr. Mashelkar, after the hijack, at some international conference. It was readily lapped up by many experts. The point being, a platform should be made available to ordinary citizens, to voice solutions/ideas which may be useful at solving our umpteen problems
G. Parathasarathy - The most outspoken, politically incorrect and refreshingly straight forward of all speakers
  • Mr. Parathasarathy has lived, interacted, negotiated with all the players in this Global game of politics and terrorism
  • He very astutely pointed out how terrorism always has political objectives
  • His presentation focused on the idea that India needed to work on nation building, get its act under control and ensure a pluralistic economy
  • There is no point in being wishy-washy about Pakistan and its common lineage with us. People to people interaction is wonderful, however, we should not forget that terrorism is a state policy that the Pakistani Army follows
  • "Islam under threat" is keenly followed by the Army to further its tactical and strategic goals
  • If one needed to find out who ruled Pakistan, we needn't go further. During Hillary Clinton's Pak visit, she spent about half an hour with the elected Prime Minister and President and more than three hours with General Kayani


Question Hour saw a lot of interesting questions from the audience and from Rediff and TOI participants.

Two questions I have always wanted to, and were finally asked by someone else are:
  • After 9/11 US has never had any large scale attacks. Look at us. When will we ever become like them?
Mr. Narayanan pointed out that US has had 11 threats after 9/11 while India has had ~507  threats in the last decade. Going by this statistic, our intelligence and police forces have indeed done a wonderful job. Moreover, a 26/11 kind of attack is quite possible in NY too, as agreed by the FBI.

  • If Kashmir is resolved, will terrorism in India stop ?
Mr. Parathasarathy gave a sweet reply to this one: No. As mentioned earlier, terrorism has political objectives and the CIA, has in its possession, records of Gen. Musharraf openly mouthing, how a perpetual, low scale violence in India was in Pakistani Army's interest. The scenario hasn't changed much even now.

A lot of what comprised the discussion yesterday cannot be put up here.

The panelists spoke about the changing face of terror; the professional recruitment followed by LeT in Oman, Qatar, Maldives and the likes; the role of Nuclear Technology and Nanotechnology in abating such attacks; NSG and MSG; why Naxalites should not be called terrorists, etc.

The most important point that emerged was: India is on its own, and it needs a more involved citizenry to face Terrorism.


There were splendid arrangements for lunch after the event.

Someone remarked - It feels good to be fed by the police. Mostly, it's the other way round.


I also wish to add that I always looked at the police in a black/white hue.

Now, I am less critical towards them; thanks to the knowledge I have been privy too.


india unbound said...

Nice coverage of the event. No major news paper or news channel seem to have covered this event.

A lot of important points were made by the panelists. In my view the most important was that citizens have to be more pro active. The usual rant that we pay tax and our responsibility ends there does not hold true. People in US & UK too pay taxes and we can learn a lot from them as far as citizen activism is concerned.

ashkd said...

Once again as expected.. Journalism is the perfect for you.. :-) Very nicely put.. taaliyan!! :-)

What i think regarding some of the points:

1. Indeed the conditions in different conditions are different but rules and regulations are so fragile in our country that people can find the loophole.. The victims in our country also had tried many things for their basics itself.. (read India today of nov 09 edition) when they are not sure of their basics, the frustration and depression would lead them to live with what they have and leave their safety to unknown..

2. 'We should follow the rules' is the must thing.. these officers are doing the right things, taking corrective actions but the actual policemen who are on the roads and who have the major responsibility of law and order, they are not such.. i guess the system need some HR and holistic training for their clarity of objectives.. or some other measures..

3. Its good that they think that people should participate in the decision making. But such things shouldn't be done in the crisis situations.. I guess we have a very well qualified team of IPS officers, IAS officers who are well equipped mentally to take 99.9999% correct decisions.. given the panic situation the junta would give all the worldly-wise solutions.. I think such links should be opened in the normal situations and those things should be taken into account wisely and properly while making policy decisions.. that would be beneficial to give junta what they actually need and deserve.

I think such events should happen more often to let channels be more open for the debates, discussions and feedback.. very nice concept to fight with terrorism.. more discussions would make the bigger picture much more clear.. :-)

All Talk and No Action said...

@IU - Yup, surprising, not much print on this event.

Yes, the most imp. point was about citizen participation. Every speaker was so vociforous and almost pleaded and sometimes warned people to become more actively involved :)

@ashkd - Thank you.
I agree about citizen awareness. Yes, a lot of times people don't know what their rights are.. There is lack of basic citizen rights too... we need to work on such things...
I don't agree about the police though. I thought they were a useless bunch, really. But, I come to appreciate what they do for us, atleast I can sa so about the Mumbai police :)

Yes, we need such events. Hence, i am surprised no major news paper/channel brought this up.

ashkd said...

I never say that the policemen are the useless people.. they can do great.. Mumbai police is surely an example of the same.. but what about all other lakhs of places in india.. i cant pick one good example over all the weirdly bad examples of their attitudes..

you know for a postmortem, the police charges 25k to hand it to over to the people at postmortem house and then 25k is taken by the Doctor at postmortem house to give an acceptable result.. its pathetic to see.. even if you go for a simple FIR for the loss of mobile phone they dont give it in the first request.. they change the language 3-4 times.. and finally they dont sign till you give them suitable amount.. :-( and a normal person wont be spending days, efforts and money of more than the suitable amount just for this..

All Talk and No Action said...

@ashkd - Yes, it is a bleak situation.

Yet, corruption is omnipresent. It's not just about our Police Force.

For starters, I think we need to increase their pay. It might get some people to stay away from bribes.

ashkd said...

ye salary aur bribe ka funda kab se hone laga?? power aur bribe ka funda hota hai salary ka nahi.. they have their self-proclaimed power and thats they utilize it.. same for politicians.. they need strict rules for themselves and objective training and proper integrity checks..

indeed corruption is everywhere but we are talking of police and we cant deny that it is quite rampant over there..

All Talk and No Action said...

@ashkd - Salary and bribe ka bahut bada connection hai.

A man just starting off as a policeman in Mumbai starts with anywhere between ~5-10K as salary. Now how in the world do I expect him to run his household?

I believe a lot of people turn to bribes mostly to sustain their families.

Plus, they do lead very stressful lives. Mumbai police specially !

I am not saying that an increase in pay will do away with corruption, but fewer number of officers will kill their honest streaks, methinks.

ashkd said...

nahi mukta ji.. i guess you have taken bribe concept at very simple level..

do a test yourself.. fixed someone's salary to some x value, change the power of his position from zero power to very high.. and then fixed the power and change the salary from very low to very high.. you would automatically come to know the difference.. if the person asking of bribe is having low salary but can do a great thing for the person sitting next to him, he would get the bribe.. but even if your salary is too high but the position is of zero power, noone would give you bribe and you wont be able to ask for it as well..

if salary had been the criteria then those people who take bribe would have set standard of max bribe that they would take per month.. they dont set such i am very sure.. :-)

ashkd said...

and many people start taking bribe before even starting their family.. what would be said for those people??

All Talk and No Action said...

@ashkd - so, by your logic, all power corrupts ? :)

Umm, yes, I have taken a very simple look at corruption.

And I agree that some people will always be corrupt. They are wired that way. Hence, for this discussion, lets keep such people at bay.

E.g. A traffic policeman, if paid well - keeping in mind his services during the summer heat and noisy nights, minding rash drivers and rude teenagers and crazy people all around; I doubt he would take bribes. It's only when his family isn't well fed, he needs money to send his kids to good schools, he feels exhausted and under paid and hardly praised, does he resort to corruption.

Similarly, a junior police officer, who defends and protects the citizens and seldom feels appreciated or paid well, may resort to corruption and abuse his power.

ashkd said...

all power doesnt corrupt.. power unchecked does corrupt..

the humanitarian side of your example is quite correct but i think its far far far far far away from the reality.. :-)

hehe.. i guess lets end it... :P

All Talk and No Action said...

@ashkd - Yeah, the discussion can always be taken offline :)

allthecrap said...

Nice coverage. how u got da info abt such event?

All Talk and No Action said...

@allthecrap - My dad was passing through the auditorium and he decided to attend it.. I tagged along :)