Industry experts and surveillance equipment vendors agree the government has woken up but insist there should be more action.
Deepesh Murthy, a senior manager in the security business, recently drove into a five-star hotel in New Delhi. As is the case with most hotels, a security guard routinely pushed a flat mirror to scan the underbelly of the car, while another opened the car’s hatch to inspect it manually.
“Even a year after the 26/11 blasts that rocked Mumbai, and the later ones that rocked the nation, these people have not learnt their lessons,” says an exasperated Murthy, adding: “What will a mirror tell you given the sophisticated devices that terrorists use today? Why not invest Rs 10-25 lakh in an intelligent under-vehicle surveillance system, instead, which will not only help inspect the undercarriage, but also expose it from all makes and models for explosive devices, suspicious objects, contraband which includes drugs?”
Murthy’s observation is not off the mark. Security experts and vendors agree that while the government is taking steps to increase India’s security measures, “the spending is low and slow”.
Consider this. The gruesome attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 shook the world. For three days, militants struck the city’s most high-profile targets. “The government did get into action initially,” admits Pramoud Rao, managing director of Zicom Electronic Security Systems. “However, the momentum tapered thereafter. The pace is not at all satisfactory,” he asserts.
Cyber security expert Vijay Mukhi concurs that “even if the government is doing much, it’s not showing on the roads (referring to security spends).” He should know since he heads the “Communications & Cybersecurity” cell — one of the six sub-groups of the “State Security Council” appointed by the Maharashtra government after the blasts.
A few weeks after the blast, the Maharashtra government did allocate Rs 301 crore towards security spending. Of this, around Rs 124 crore has been spent — primarily on buying AK-47(s), bullet-proof jackets and vans, and for the creation of the commando force (Force 1). The Maharashtra government has also compiled a list of all high-value, high footfall buildings in Mumbai city.
“This is just a drop in the ocean,” retorts Mukhi. Rothin Bhattacharyya, cheif executive officer of HCL Security, concurs that “we have the ability to become a safe state, and are well prepared from the supply side. The government, too, is aware and knows but we urgently need a regulation for security. We need to secure India’s entry points for it’s the weakest links that always fail.”
Mehernosh B Pithawalla, general manager (International Business and Marketing), Godrej Security Solutions, agrees that “concern should be converted to action”. “We need a holistic and integrated approach. The devices need to talk to each other — there should be a lot of intelligence in the devices — the closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) should talk to a database and other access control systems. Only then they could, for instance, alert a road blocker to stop an escaping vehicle,” he explains.
The central government, on its part, is understood to have allocated around $100 million (around Rs 460 crore at today’s rates) to create “city surveillance states”. Around 5,000 CCTVs are to be deployed in Maharashtra “but the state is yet to see any of these installed”, says a source close to the development.
Not much progress has been made in any state for that matter. In Delhi, for instance, the National Capital Region (NCR) has been allocated Rs 8 crore while Gurgaon has been allocated Rs 6 crore for surveillance equipment installation. “But Delhi is a different ball game since security is being beefed up because of the Commonwealth games — the biggest sporting event India will host since the 1982 Asiad,” notes a source. “The government has doubled the spend from Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,600 crore on security for the Games,” the source adds.
Government-owned Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) has been mandated to complete security work by March 31, 2010. It was given a budget of around Rs 370 crore in the Union Budget. “I cannot give you any details due to security reasons. All I can say is that the work is on schedule,” says Y S Mayya, chairman and managing director of ECIL.
Over 2,000 CCTVs are expected to be installed at the various venues apart from 58 market places like Connaught Place, Nehru Place, Dilli Haat and Lajpat Nagar, and also be mounted at 27 border checkposts for which the government will spend around Rs 22 crore. Besides, the Delhi Police is spending around Rs 105 crore on X-ray scanners, door frame metal detectors, hand-held metal detectors and communication systems for the Commonwealth Games venues. And Rs 42 crore has been disbursed for developing traffic and communication network in the NCR and a model traffic system while Rs 56 lakh will be spent on training the city police.