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No lessons learnt

No lessons learnt

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: June 20, 2009

I t is hard to support the decision of the Maharashtra Government not to release the report of the inquiry committee which had examined the terrorist assault in Mumbai last November. Despite the partpublication of the report in a section of the press, the Government stonewalled the opposition in the State legislature which vociferously sought its release.

Apparently, the State Cabinet was divided on making the report public. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, it is reported, was not against laying the report on the table of the House, while a section of the Cabinet led by Narayan Rane was deadest against it. Clearly, a great opportunity to throw open the debate on the findings of the inquiry committee, and the action taken to ward off further terrorists acts, was lost by keeping the report secret. Transparency in such vital matters ought to be commended. But instead,the state government took shelter behind irrelevancies such as the alleged contradictions in the report that it praised the Mumbai police while finding fault with its top officers. That it had transferred the Mumbai Commissioner of Police Hasan Gafoor after the submission of the report was a small concession to accountability. Earlier, the politicians in the muddle had been removed. Both Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Home Minister R R Patil had to resign following the 26/11 attack, though the induction of the former in the Union government does send a confusing signal.

However, aside from the non-release of the Deshmukh report, what is more worrying is that no lessons seemed to have been learnt from the horrendous terrorist attack. The so-called action taken report of the Maharashtra Government is in fact a no-action taken report. The removal of Gafoor can hardly be said to have constituted a systemic change for better preparing for future emergencies. The recommendations of the inquiry committee for an integrated action plan to handle similar terrorist attacks remain unimplemented Nor has there been any discernible action to train and equip the police force for future terror attacks. The haphazard intelligence gathering process, its compartmentalization in competing sections under different departments, and the failure of the field officers to act on intelligence all speak of a flawed system. Intelligence gathering needs to be integrated into a streamlined single-head department, but there has been no progress made in this direction as well. The report spoke about the availability of intelligence about the 26/11 attack and of the failure of the Mumbai police to act on it. Justifying its failure, the ATR complains that the intelligence received was not time and date specific This is laughable. Terrorists do not come after sending in their calling cards and warning in advance of the place, date and time of their assault. In short, the ATR is a white-wash job. Quite clearly, no lesions have been learnt from the 26/11 massacre of innocent citizens Which is a sad comment on the `chalta hai' culture that permeates all governments in India.

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