The sagar kavach coastal security exercise, coming a little over a week after the misreading of a terror alert by the Police and the State administration should have acted as a catalyst to boost the security systems that are currently in place in Goa. To recap, a terror alert sent out by the Coast Guard had been picked up by the Captain of Ports that sent out messages to barges, tourism stakeholders and others to remain vigilant on the coast, but the Police and the State administration that hadn’t reacted to the alert, at first denied having received any such alert. A meeting was later held to discuss the protocol of terror alerts, when it was pointed out that the alert had indeed been dispatched to the police.
With the two-day Sagar Kavach over, and while the security enforcement team will be patting their backs on an exercise that they have completed, the question that needs to be asked is: What good is there in taking pride in successfully thwarting a simulated terror exercise when a real terror alert goes unnoticed? If only the police personnel could put a little more seriousness in their job, this goof with the actual terror alert earlier this month may have been avoided, for this amount to not just an embarrassment to the force, but also a frightening possibility that Goa is not prepared to handle a terror attack.
At this point it’s also pertinent to recall that the earlier Sagar Kavach exercise had ended up with dummy terrorists penetrating the police citadel. This security exercise, held at regular intervals, is meant to assess the coastal security mechanism and provide seamless seaward cover along the Goa coast from the coastal belt area to the limit of the territorial waters. While it causes much disruption to the quotidian of the people, this particular exercise of November 2017 exposed the rather weak security in the State, even at a time of a simulated heightened alert. In the exercise that the law enforcement authorities had undertaken, one ‘bomb’ was discovered and defused, the other team of ‘terrorists’ managed to evade the high alert and plant a bomb in the office of the Police Headquarters. So an actual terror alert going unpicked by the police signifies that nothing was learnt from the failed exercise and no new protocols were put in place, raising questions on the efficacy of these Sagar Kavach drills.
If all this is indicative of the security in the State then it implies that Goa is vulnerable to a terror attack. Goa’s long coastline, its numerous fishing trawlers and millions of tourists pouring in during the season makes it very porous and an easy target. There have been past instances of terrorists using Goa as a recreational place or even for planning purposes. Their sojourns in Goa have come to light only after they had been nabbed elsewhere by other agencies. So when will Goa Police begin arresting real terrorists in the State? Foiling dummy attacks at security drills can hardly be counted as successes.
It is hence obvious, even to the layman, that the State’s security systems need to be tightened and the alertness levels heightened. Goa cannot afford to take its security concerns lightly. Professionalism and efficiency must be imbued in the police force. If it takes more exercise like the Sagar Kavach drills, then so be it. There cannot be another instance of a terror alert going unnoticed by the police force in Goa, as the security of the State and people’s lives are at stake. The State’s security agencies – all of them – have to be on heightened alert all year round.