STRENGTHENING COASTAL SECURITY THROUGH COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM

Tomorrow,  26  November  2016,  the  nation  will  observe  the  eight  anniversary  of  the ‘26/11’ Mumbai terrorist attacks. Precisely two months back on 26 September 2016, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) tabled its 2015 report on the General and   Social   Sector   (Government   of   Odisha)   in   the   State   Assembly.   The   report highlighted   that   the   objective   of   securing   the   coastline   of   the   State   through establishment of the Marine Police Stations and that sea patrolling was not achieved, despite  the  financial  assistance  from  the  Government  of  India  under  the  Coastal Security Scheme (CSS).

The  2001  report  of  the  Group  of  Ministers  (GoM), constituted after  the  1999  Kargil Conflict,  had  recommended  setting-up  of  a  specialised  marine  police  in  all  coastal States and island territories, operating from Coastal Police Stations (CPS). The police force was to be appropriately trained and equipped for the maritime role. The GoM had also recommended the creation of Department of Border Management in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Subsequently, in January 2004, the Department of Border Management was created at  MHA.  The  first  phase  of  the  CSS  was  launched  in  2005  to  strengthen  coastal policing. Following the ‘26/11’ incident, Phase II was implemented in April 2011. With a  total  financial  outlay  of  Rs  2225.91  crore  for  all  the  13  coastal  States/  Union Territories  (UTs),  the  two  phases  include  setting-up  of  204  Coastal  Police  Stations (CPS), 97 checkpoints, 58 outposts, 30 barracks, 60 jetties, 10 Operations Centres and procurement  of  431  boats.  For  monitoring  its  implementation,  a  Steering  Committee for   Review   of   Coastal   Security   (SCRCS)   has   been   set-up   at   MHA   under   the chairpersonship of Secretary (Border Management).

Post  the  ‘26/11’  incident,  the  Indian  Navy  was  designated as  the  agency  responsible for ‘overall  maritime security’ including coastal  and offshore security, and the Indian Coast  Guard  (ICG)  was  given  responsibility  for  ‘coastal  security  in  territorial  waters including areas to be patrolled by the Coastal Police’.   The Coastal Police is presently responsible for close-coast patrolling.

The Indian Maritime Security Strategy (2015), has envisaged an increasing role and operational responsibilities to be taken up by the ICG and other agencies (like the Coastal Police), in tandem with growth in their capabilities.

In  February  2014,  the  177th   Report  of  the  Department-Related  Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on CSS had highlighted several issues relating to its implementation across all coastal States/ UTs. The CAG, in its report, based on test check  of  records  of  concerned  offices  and  physical  inspection  of  assets  created,  has highlighted inter alia the following:-

  • Cumulatively, there was a significant shortfall in patrolling effort (almost 97 per cent), especially at
  • Checks on fishing vessels were not being undertaken by the Coastal
  • There was an acute shortage of manpower; ‘persons in position’, in sample Police Stations, was 25. 33 per cent of the sanction. Also, police personnel were not adequately trained for marine
  • There were delays in land acquisition, and support infrastructure, such as barracks and staff quarters, were yet to be constructed at several locations. Jetties under CSS were yet to be constructed and the Coastal Police were using fisheries jetties, some located more than 70 kilometres from the CPS.
  • Only 07 per cent of total funds received under CSS Phase II, for establishing basic infrastructure, have been utilised.
  • Lack of inspections of CPS and state-level monitoring

The  Coastal  Police,   envisaged  in  2000-01,  is  one  of  the  integral  and  key constituents  of  the  coastal  security  construct  in  India.  However,  as  both  reports indicate,  despite  the  continuing  efforts  of  central  and  state  governments,  there  still remain significant challenges to the implementation of CSS, and thus the effectiveness of  the  Coastal  Police  itself.  Considering  the  tenuous  security  environment  in  the immediate neighbourhood and global trends indicative of increasing capabilities (and threats)  from  terrorists,  the  lacunae  highlighted  in  the  report  would  need  to  be addressed.

On 16 June 2016, a coastal security meeting was held at Mumbai chaired by the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh, and attended by the home ministers, chief secretaries  and  DGPs  of  all  coastal  States  and  UTs.  During  the  meeting,  the  Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Devendra Fadnavis, suggested that since marine policing was  a  ‘specialised  job’,  a  Central  Armed  Police  Force  (CAPF)  may  be  raised  for patrolling  coastal  waters  and  other  related  duties.    The  proposal  was  supported  by some other coastal States/ Union Territories, and the Union Home Minister agreed to examine it. The February 2014 report on the CSS had also recommended the raising of a Marine India Reserve Battalion (MIRB).

In July 2016, the 11th  meeting of the Inter-State Council (ISC) was held in New Delhi after a gap of over ten years. The meeting, perhaps for the first time, discussed issues  related  to  internal  security,  intelligence-sharing  among  the  States  and  central agencies,  police  modernisation  and  terrorism.  During  the  meeting,  the  Union  Home Minister emphasised the importance of ‘cooperative federalism’ and the commitment of the Government to ‘ideal Centre-State cooperation’.

Meetings of the Eastern Zonal Council (27 June 2016), Western Zonal Council (21   October   2016)   and   the   Standing   Committee   of   the   Southern   Zonal   Council (14 October 2016) also discussed issues related to fisheries, coastal security, terrorism and   police   modernisation.   Furthermore,   the   SCRCS   has   been   strengthened,   and institutional mechanisms for coastal security coordination have also been implemented at the State and district levels.

Issues related to coastal security – such as shipping, fishing, ports, police, international maritime borders – transcend the Union, State and Concurrent lists necessitating close coordination between the Union and State Governments, as well as a large number of stakeholders. Hopefully, the recent initiatives to leverage the  existing institutional mechanisms for ‘cooperative federalism’ to strengthen security mechanisms will provide complementary avenues for discussions, deliberations and action.

 

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*Cmdr Himadri Das is a serving officer in the Indian Navy. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the official policy or the Indian Navy, the NMF or the Government of India. He can be reached at himadridas@rediffmail.com

 

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