Despite various measures announced by the state government to upgrade coastal security post the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, hardly anything seems to have actually been done. As for what has been done, most efforts seem to have gone down the drain. For example, almost all speed boats bought with great fanfare by the district administration are defunct (see Box) and there has been considerable failure in the move to set up coastal police stations and jetties designed as part of the plan.
Out of a total of 27 speed boats allotted to the Mumbai Police for surveillance, almost all are out of order and have been dumped in various yards for repairs.
In terms of patrolling infrastructure, the police require four jetties on the 114 km long Mumbai Coast, apart from four beat chowkies. However, no jetty has been constructed in the last four years and no facility for refuelling of boats has been made available.
As far as coastal police stations are concerned, temporary police stations at Yellow Gate, Wadala, Mahim and Sewree have been set up.
However they are mostly make-shift in nature with inadequate facilities. In fact, a full fledged coastal police station has to be set up on the seashore near Mahim Fort for which a plot of land has been earmarked and even the funds have been sanctioned. But since the plot has been unauthorisedly occupied by a sand dealer and neither Mumbai Port Trust nor BMC has made any attempt to evict him, the work is yet to begin.
Similarly, a plot was identified for constructing a jetty at Madh. But the local fishermen have set up a cold storage on it instead. Surprisingly even a local MLA supported the fishermen’s claim. In view of this sordid state of affairs, the police personnel deputed to guard the coast are virtually shelterless and operate in pitiable conditions.
The fleet of 27 speed boats include bigger boats like Kaveri, Koyna, Bhima, Amboli, Panchganga and 4 Sealeg boats procured from New Zealand. But the fuel tanks of these boats cannot hold more than 600 to 700 litres of fuel. They consume over 150 litres of fuel each day and hence need refuelling every three to four days. The boats can be refuelled only if the fuel is brought from the Mumbai transport section office located at Nagpada in South Mumbai.
As of now, the Sealeg boats are lying near Raj Bhavan, Girgaum Chowpatty, Mahim Coast and Versova. All other boats are docked at Mazagon Dock. The Mumbai Police were to appoint a private company for maintenance of the Sealeg boats but shelved the plan since most of the boats are defunct. And now, going by the rising petrol prices, it would seem that the Mumbai Police has almost given up the plan to use these speed boats.
Commenting on the matter, DCP (Port) Tanaji Ghadge told ADC that the speed boats have been functioning well but now they have been docked due to ensuing monsoon. However, the log entries speak differently since most of the boats have been constantly out of order even if the account of the first six months of this year is taken into consideration. (See adjoining Box for the breakdown dates).
On the proposed Coastal police station on Mahim shore, DCP Ghadge said that a blue-print for the station has been approved and the work would start soon.
The situation in Navi Mumbai is also not different. Two coastal police stations ‘Mora’ (Uran) and ‘NRI’ (Nerul) have been set up and 5 speed boats have been allotted for surveillance. Of these, 3 boats are operational while 2 boats are out of order. In the absence of a jetty, the boats operate from a private jetty. API Patil told ADC that regular vigil is maintained with the existing boats and whenever they are out of order, the services of a contractor from Thane are hired.
In Raigad district, a Coastal police station has been set up at Dighi Port. Here the job of surveillance is carried out with hired private speed boats by local police.
Another police station has been set up at Alibag, but the jetty at Alibag is unauthorised. In Murud-Janjira the police have obtained boats on hire basis from a person who is said to be a relative of one of the convicts of March 12, 1993 Mumbai bomb blast.
It may be recalled that soon after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the state government had announced a plan to set up 11 police stations along the 720 km long coast line of Maharashtra. Under the coastal security program, the Union home ministry had even agreed to provide boats. But it appears that due to lack of trained personnel, manpower and lack of maintenance facilities, looking after coastal security is not the police force’s cup of tea.