Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Rising India or a Chaos in the Offing

Karan Kharb

On the day of terror blast at the reception counter of Delhi High Court on 07 September 2011, India’s Prime Minister bravely declared from his Race Course Road residential Fort, “……we shall not succumb to terrorism” although he did not labour to explain how India is safeguarding itself from ‘succumbing’ to the menace of terrorism. Elsewhere in Delhi at the same time, his Home Minister was, however, was nearly giving in and succumbing since he openly admitted exposing the government’s underbelly to the terrorists saying, “….we cannot prevent terror attacks….there is no way….”. The terrorists must have celebrated and played this statement over and over, besides circulating it to all their budding buddies ensconced in safe houses within India or in terror schools in Pakistan.

Ah! What a splendid playground we have laid out for the terrorists. Nowhere else in the world would terrorists have the luxury of first rehearsing live blasts on real targets and then executing their plans with such ease and impunity as was done in the case of Delhi High Court on September 7. Yes, the initiative being always with the terrorists, it is possible for a determined terrorist to carry out his mischief, but only rarely. The fundamental job of a professionally sound intelligence agency is to reach out to the hatcheries of terrorists and factories or couriers of their tools so that they are able to pre-empt the terrorist preparations at the inception stage. Terrorists will always need tools and facilities like weapons, explosives, conveyance, communication, safe house and logistic support including local guidance. Prior reconnaissance of the target area and escape routes, post-strike surveillance, damage assessment and efficiency of the police and security agencies in cordoning the area and evacuating the casualties etc are some of the activities that the terrorists will continue to indulge in directly or indirectly even after the blasts and massacre. Our intelligence agencies are, however, made up of officers and subordinates picked up at random from various departments on deputation without much thought to their aptitude or expertise. Most of them find such assignments ‘dry’ and call them ‘punishment postings’ with little incentive and a high risk rating.

There are a number of serious questions that must be answered in the interest of national security. Why was there no follow up of the previous blast a few months earlier at the same spot? Why were the CC TV cameras not functional and who bears the responsibility for their being dysfunctional? Who are responsible for delayed police reaction and poor evacuation of casualties? Why was their no immediate pursuit of suspects? Are our police and intelligence agencies adept and equipped enough with the modern electronic intelligence systems for speedy link up and generating artificial intelligence? Sadly, the police officers and constables on the scene looked simply as shocked and clueless as the shocked hapless public there. When will our police and systems tune up to professionally match up the challenges they are facing? Who is accountable for all the wrongs that are happening without a respite in our country? Who is in control? Why has the government virtually abdicated?

Despite the security environment so uncertain in India, for a while it was soothing to hear that the Indian economy was on an upswing even as the western world was sinking in an economic meltdown. Even an ordinary Indian felt proud on every news of great achievements by Indians – techies, entrepreneurs et al. Happenings like the Tatas acquiring Jaguar or Lakshmi Mittal acquiring world’s largest steel company Arcelor and other success stories added colour and gaiety to the euphoria . The common Indian – aam admi – is now realising that he is there merely as an audience to clap and cheer while the goodies of India’s growth are shared by those already floating in affluence. Aam admi’s songs in the praise of an emerging India make him look like the proverbial Abdullah diwana in begaani shaadi. The following fact sheet proves it.

Our government finds it easier to explain away the problems of the masses without getting overly worried about. Recently electricity tariff was hiked even as RWAs all over Delhi cried against the unjustifiably excessive hike in rates. Justification given by the Delhi CM was that the hike was to avoid loss to the discoms as if the excessive burden on people’s pockets would be their gain! Next comes yet another wave of petrol price hike – 12th straight jump in just 18 months. Reason? It was becoming commercially difficult for the Oil Companies to meet their rising costs. Instead of making them compete and advance, the consumer is loaded with the responsibility to propel them paying from his pocket.

Price inflation is shooting up unabated in a strange manner – sacrificing interests of the aam admi and bringing added comfort to the economically well-off. LCD TVs, laptops, digital cameras, luxury cars, hotel tariffs – almost the entire luxury inventory is becoming cheaper even as those buying these comforts wouldn’t care much about ‘prices’. In sharp contrast to this, the vegetables, fruit, milk, oil, medicine, electricity, water and food – all so vital and necessary for sustaining human life at the lowest end of the society – are shooting up beyond poor man’s reach. Ironically, it is all happening at a time when India has world’s famed economist in the Prime Minister’s seat aided by a highly experienced finance minister and yet another man of great international reputation at the Planning Commission. Yet, they have proved to be so ineffective in safeguarding the genuine interests of the largest segment of India’s population.

Even before the UPA-2 government came to power, Mr Manmohan Singh had expressed his concern about the alarming level to which corruption in government departments had risen in the country. Yet, the Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy and a booming economy expressed his helplessness from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August 2011 saying that his government had ‘no magic wand’ to tackle the menace of corruption. Next day, a farmer soldier of yester years, Anna Hazare, took it upon himself to tackle the evil making hunger his invincible weapon and power. And lo, even the unwilling government started moving within a fortnight.

It is sickening to see the leaders on whom the nation has bestowed the authority and power to lead this country in such pathetic, callous or helpless state. The Prime Minister has publicly confessed his helplessness against corruption, the Finance Minister has confessed his against price inflation, and the Home Minister has now raised hands against terror attacks too. At a time when people and civil society groups are demanding greater accountability, we find authorities shamelessly audacious in justifying their failures and inaction. Recently whenever it rained in Delhi or Mumbai, roads became canals with no drainage system functional despite huge money spent on (or siphoned through) them. Thanks to our accountability practice, the culprits do not even take note of who is watching and reporting about their misdeeds for they know life would be as usual day after onwards. In the worst case scenarios of ‘punitive action’, they are deft enough to meander through an odd transfer or suspension and get back to where one would wish to be. Harsher administrative actions, though existing in service statutes, are never invoked by the superiors for fear of being exposed themselves.

Are our ministers disoriented in their vision and perceptions? Yes, it appears so. Otherwise why should a brilliant Home Minister like P Chidambaram publicly express his helpless in preventing terror attacks? What message is he sending out by expressing the government’s weakness and vulnerability? By implication, his ‘confessed inability’ serves to boost up the morale and spirit of the terrorists to take bolder initiatives hence on. On the other hand, such helplessness emanating from the highest authority is bound to induce a sense of despondency among the police and security forces. It could destroy their confidence and morale while they need to be always motivated, confident, swift and efficient to handle crises with professional zeal and finesse. It was also strange that the Home Minister quoted the US experience saying that even that country continued to suffer casualties from terror despite their war against the menace in Iraq and Afghanistan. One would wish the learned home minister knew that there has not been a single terror attack in the post 9/11 United States whereas the FBI and state security apparatus have often pre-empted nipping the terror attacks in their inception stage. How disappointing that despite attacks on our Parliament House, Red Fort and repeated blasts in Mumbai and Delhi, our intelligence agencies refused to wake up from their slumber even as David Hadley and his accomplice Rana were surveying and recording vital data for the ISI to plan Mumbai 26/11 and more future terror attacks on the vitals of India.

Further, if our learned home minister has the alacrity to have the US as a role model in dealing with terrorism, he must know how ‘Operation Geronimo’ was conducted to hound out Osama bin Laden from his ‘safe house’ in the heart of Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was unarmed and, as per reports, wanted to surrender to the US Navy Seals during the raid. But the US commando shot him in the forehead from a point blank range. A government that espouses human rights and preaches legal process over summary executions not only killed an unarmed Osama bin Laden but also wrapped his body and dumped it in the Arabian Sea for the sharks to devour the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist. This was to foreclose the possibility of any mausoleum coming up on his grave if his body was left behind to be buried. Now contrast this with India’s stance in dealing with those who had the audacity to attack the Parliament House, symbol of our national prestige and authority. The Government is timidly avoiding carrying out sentences awarded by the Supreme Court against nation’s enemies like Afzal Guru and others despite their having exhausted all legal recourse open to them including review petitions and mercy petitions for grant of clemency to the President of India. Are we waiting for someone to call us from Kandahar or Peshawar to release and deliver Afzal Guru there in exchange of Rahul Gandhi or a handful of other pricy Indians?

Rather than improving our own systems, training and accountability standards, we seem to have outsourced intelligence to the US as is clear from our frequent whining over why the American agencies are not informing us! As if the CIA and FBI bosses should be reporting to the Indian Home Minister. Nevertheless, it was the US intelligence agencies that informed us about how and where the Mumbai 26/11 attack was planned. But who will tell the worthy Home Minister that the country is not asking him about our casualties in the battle fields of Siachen Glacier or in a direct armed conflict on Indo-Pak borders. Our gallant soldiers will fight and even sacrifice their lives because they are face to face with the enemy. Even the police and unarmed citizens will fight and chase if only you could pre-warn them about when and where the threat is coming. But letting our unsuspecting people fall easy prey to the terrorists in the heart of national capital repeatedly is certainly a sign of inefficiency, weakness and unpardonable callousness.

It is crucial for a rising India to address its inner ailments and enforce stringent accountability norms to ensure that ‘omissions’ and delinquent conduct in performance are summarily punished. Unless we do so, we heading towards a chaos.

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