Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Samjhauta Tragedy - The Security Lapse

The Samjhauta Express blast was a tragedy. The loss of innocent train passengers in a blast is to be condemned by all. No matter who did this or what reason, they should be caught and prosecuted.

What has been somewhat soft-pedalled is the lax security environment that is in place in our country. It would not be out of order to call India a soft state. If we examine the overall situation, it does not feel very promising.

The Samjhauta Express is a train that carries passengers between India and Pakistan. Given the nature of relations between the two countries, one would have assumed that security on such a train would have been absolutely tight. I remember the time when Pakistani cricket fans had come to India to watch a cricket match, and the absolute mayhem that had resulted when it was disclosed that some of these fans had not gone back.

And what do we find? The tickets on the train were given out without checking passports, people could roam in the country without any constraints on the platform where the train departed from, luggage was unchecked and people could carry large amounts of luggage on the train without any restrictions.

And how could all this happen? Because the Samjhauta Express was seen as a money making train, and security personnel could make money by looking the other way. To top it all, it was found that the suspects could get into the train, and then get off by making some excuses. A disaster waiting to happen is the exact phrase to use.

Actually, blaming the people on the scene is missing the big picture. When questions were asked about the security arrangements on the train after the explosion, it was found that there was actually no comprehensive security arrangement. The Railway Protection Police claims that it was the responsibility of the various states through which the train passes, while the states deny all responsibility.

Even now, one really does not read about any specific agency being made charge of the security. This case is even more worrisome, since the killed were foreign nationals, and the attack happened due to lack of security.

What are the reasons for such a casual outlook towards security among the people in charge? There are essentially two major factors: Corruption; and lack of accountability. Corruption is so pervasive and the risk of being caught so minimal that everybody is out to make a quick buck without fear. Lack of accountability arises from this corruption, and also because the babudom derives its power from being accountable to none other than a senior.

We need to break these two jinxes on our country if we need to have a good security situation.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:09 AM