Coastal Security: MHA misses deadline

After failing to complete second phase of Coastal Security Scheme, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) got a four year extension till 2020 but a Parliamentary panel suspects it may miss that deadline too.

The slow pace of procurement of boats and other security gadgets have led the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs led by Rajya Sabha MP and former Home Minister P Chidambaram to believe so.

The 2015-16 budget allocation and expenditure would give a picture of the state of coastal security preparedness. While Rs 710 crore was initially allocated, it was reduced to Rs 160 crore during revised estimates but at the end only Rs 48.89 crore were utilised. The reason cited was non-finalisation of procurement of boats.

The same reason recur in 2016-17 for reduction of Rs 770.89 crore in budget allocation while the MHA itself admit that the lower allocation in 2017-18 is due to lesser estimate of boat price.

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** Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme was started in 2005-06 and ended in March 2011.

** During Phase I, 73 Coastal Police Stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 barracks were set up besides procurement of 204 boats, 153 jeeps, 312 motor cycles and 10 rigid inflatable boats.

** Second phase was to end in March 2016. Now extended to March 2020.

** 131 more coastal police stations, 60 jetties and 10 Marine Operation Centres to be set up besides buying 225 boats among others.

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The memories of the Mumbai attacks, when terrorists used the vulnerabilities in coastal security to enter, appears to have prompted the committee to “caution” the Ministry that foolproof security on 7,516 km coastline is “sine quo non (indispensable action)” for the country.

While the Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme ended in March 2011, the second phase started in April 2011 and was extended for four years in March 2016 following non completion.

Pointing out that the time has now been extended till March 2020, the panel said, “this is total failure on the part of the Ministry” and this is compounded by the under utilisation of funds again this year.

If the Ministry keeps procrastinating on the implementation of security related projects and does not procure items on time, it may not be able to complete this phase of CSS even within extended timeline,” the panel said, fixing September as the deadline for completing the pending procurement.

Earlier also, Parliamentary panel had highlighted problems in coastal security. In one of the reports in 2015, it quoted an Intelligence Bureau report to say that several ports in India are sitting ducks on security front and that 75 out of 203 smaller ports have no security force even for namesake to guard them.

Another report had said that the country still does not have adequate training facilities for marine policing.

(Apr 10, 2017)

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