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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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internal security challenges and response  

The internal security scenario in the country today is grim. The Indian state seems increasingly incapable of protecting the life and property of its citizens. The long drawn cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir, repeated terrorist strikes in crowded city centres in different parts of the country, growing ethnic insurgency in several states in the North-East and above all, the reign of terror unleashed by the Naxals in 13 Indian states have Jeopardized India’s internal security. The threats from various non-state actors have posed severe challenge to the state overshadowing the traditional military threats to India’s territorial integrity from Pakistan and China. What is at stake today is the stability and integrity of the nation. The ISI of Pakistan with covert assistance from Bangladesh & Nepal, have been training, funding & equipping the separatist groups in Kashmir, various home grown ‘Jihadi’ terror cells in different parts of the country and the insurgents in the North-East. There are reasons to believe that the so-called ‘left extremists’ are also receiving arms, equipment & support from our neighbourhood. These persistent security threats are core issues needing urgent attention from the Government because India’s much vaunted march forward as a regional power will depend on whether or not we succeed in overcoming the challenges.

It is important to note that nearly all our internal security problems have external dimensions, one way or the other. A large multi-ethnic, multi-religious, diverse country with hundreds of castes and tribes has inherent potential for intra-state conflicts. The problem has become all the more acute because the state, even sixty years after freedom from colonial rule, has failed to deliver social and economic justice to vast majority of its citizens despite tall promises made in the constitution. The resultant alienation and despair amongst sizeable segments of the population have provided huge window of opportunity to hostile neighbouring countries to foment trouble by supporting various disgruntled groups and neglected elements in the society. A democratic, free, liberal country like ours is especially vulnerable because it offers endless opportunities to terrorists and insurgents to operate, establish bases, raise funds, procure weapons, communicate and mobilize support from the civil society. The ruling political elite and corrupt, inefficient bureaucracy have not only failed to govern and deliver the core services, they have also demonstrated lamentable lack of will and courage to adopt strong measures and tackle headlong the growing threats to security. The political leaders in power have politicized the response to terror. They remain ever reluctant to adopt strong legal measures for fear of losing at the hustings because tough terrorism-specific laws, though passed in many democratic countries in the west, would be unpopular among a section of India’s population.

According to the US state Department’s latest annual report on terrorism, India ranks among world’s most terrorism afflicted countries. The report also notes that despite the government’s official pronouncements, its counter-terrorism efforts remain hampered by its outdated law-enforcement and legal systems. While briefing the US Senate’s Committee on homeland security, RAND Corporation analysts have observed that India has turned out to be a “terribly soft state” neither able to prevent terrorist acts nor capable of effectively combating its terrorists on account of poor intelligence and inadequate counter-terrorist training and equipment. India, it may be added, has also received very poor rating in G-20 (group of 20 most powerful countries) report in respect of measures taken to combat terrorism.

Our security architecture, both at the centre and the states, needs thorough radical reform. What has been done so far is in the nature of Cosmetic change. The government at the centre has taken certain measures following huge public outrage and media outbursts after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. But these measures are not enough. Unless the civil society demands fundamental changes, the security scenario cannot be reversed in the foreseeable future. After every major terrorist strike, hue and cry is raised and the government engages itself in mainly fire-fighting operations to mollify the people. But public memory is notoriously short and people soon forget what happened and live their daily lives hoping for the best. A sense of complacency inevitably sets in and as a result, no substantial change takes place in the security management apparatus. The UPA government was reelected back to power in spite of its poor record in prevention and detection of terrorism related cases partly because terrorism received low priority for those who went to the polling booths to cast votes and partly because no major terrorist strike took place after 26/11. One reason for this bit of luck is of course Pakistan’s own hopeless internal security problems and non-stop terror attacks from the extremist groups it had bred and nurtured for years to destabilize India. But India’s luck can run out any time and it surely will. Prime Minister Singh has himself observed recently that there are regular intelligence reports warning about the possibility of terror attacks. In India’s hinterland, the Naxal terror continues to kill thousands posing the biggest internal security threat the country has encountered so far. After years of refusing to acknowledge its severity, the Union Home Ministry has finally sat up only recently and announced its intention to fight ‘red terror’ which has engulfed 170 districts in 13 Indian States.

What has been done during last one year and what needs to be done? The government has set up a National Investigation Agency (NIA) with much fanfare. It is just another Central Investigation agency empowered to investigate certain specified offences under eight laws including the ‘Atomic Energy Act’ and ‘The Anti-Hijacking Act’. It has no role whatsoever in prevention of terrorist Acts. Indeed, it can be wound up or merged with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which needs greater authority and power to promptly take up investigation of cases without waiting for concerned state government’s consent and concurrence. The NIA is yet to become fully operational. Besides being duplicate agency, it will take a long time to become effective duplicate investigation agency. We have seen but failed to draw lessons from the USA where unified single Department of Homeland Security was created after 9/11 attack bringing together multifarious security organizations in four Divisions under one umbrella. In India, we are heading in the opposite direction by creating new additional institutions.

The government has taken credit for giving greater teeth to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 which replaced the tough Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA). There is no doubt that the UAPA has been strengthened but it still lacks the special enforcement provisions which POTA had, such as, admissibility of confession before a Police Officer, burden of proof of innocence on the accused, tougher bail conditions and so on. The fight against terror must focus on external and domestic networking and financing of terror which remain beyond the scope of routine legislation such as the UAPA. It is time that the logic of overriding national interest finally prevailed over petty short-sighted electoral politics.

The need of the hour is an apex body like National Counter Terrorism Centre which will have the database relating to all terrorist incidents and terrorism related information with powers to tackle all aspects of terrorism — right from Prevention and Preemption through collection of inputs / intelligence from central and state agencies, coordination and sharing of intelligence between central and state agencies to monitoring investigation, prosecution and trial of cases. In her recent address to the Parliament, the President has announced that highest priority will be accorded to internal security. The government must live up to popular expectation that it means business by undertaking the task of radical institutional reform of the National Security Management System.

Another urgent long pending task is Police Reforms and Modernization of the Police in the States. Internal security cannot be maintained unless the states discharge their constitutional duty to secure peace and public order. The political leaders in the States have neglected and politically exploited the police and their intelligence apparatus. This has, over the years, adversely affected the discipline, morale and efficiency of the police. The much discussed long awaited police reforms have yet to take place due to reluctance on the part of the political leaders in the states cutting across party lines. The directives issued by the Supreme Court in September 2006 have so far been complied with by only a few states — mostly in the North East. There have been repeated demands since long for replacing the outdated police Act of 1861 by a new Act to ensure greater accountability of the Police and insulate the Force from Political manipulation by giving them greater autonomy. The government at the centre is still sitting over a model Bill which was drafted by the Soli Sorabjee Committee. The state Police Forces and their intelligence branches are grossly unprepared to deal with the challenges facing them. They are under-staffed, under-equipped, ill-trained and poorly paid. India has one of the lowest police - population ratio in the world (142 per 100000). The ratio is 315 in the USA, 290 in Australia, 300 in Germany and 200 in the U.K. The problem is further compounded by huge chunk of the force wasted for protection of the so-called VIP’s. Side by side with police reforms, the entire Criminal Justice System needs a thorough overhaul. The number of cases pending trial — many of them for decades-is simply mind boggling. If this trend is allowed to continue, people will lose all faith in the ability of the Indian democratic polity to deliver justice.

Finally and most importantly, we need to examine our intelligence set up and revitalize the Indian intelligence mechanism. The performance of our agencies came under sharp scrutiny of the Kargil Review Committee. The government appointed a task force following the report and its recommendations were accepted by the group of Ministers. However, nothing changed substantially since then. The Multi-Agency Centre hardly took off the ground. The National Security Council and the joint Intelligence Committee have become almost dysfunctional. Neither the Kargil Review Committee Report nor the report of the group of Ministers were discussed in the parliament unlike the Butler Committee Report in the UK or the 9/11 Commission Report in the USA. The obsession with secrecy has been the bane of Indian Intelligence. The basic reform must begin with a new multi-discipline futuristic approach to collection and dissemination of intelligence. With rapid advances in technology and information revolution, the agencies will more and more need talented experts, scientists, engineers, IT professionals etc. in order to collect, analyze and interpret vast quantity of complex data from variety of sources. The effectiveness of our national intelligence effort will be directly proportional to the quality and skill of men and women recruited by the agencies. This calls for sufficient career incentives to attract and retain qualified individuals from the universities, private sector, corporate world and institutes of excellence. In other words, there is need for a paradigm shift in national security culture so that lateral recruitment of experts at all levels could be done as and when necessary.

While structural reforms are essential, any rethinking about intelligence will no doubt focus on what kind of intelligence should be or need to be collected. As there is no institutionalized systems of tasking by the consumers of intelligence and performance audit, the agencies disseminate whatever they collect, process and analyze. Their typical product is treated as free good. In the absence of regular feedbacks from consumers, there is excessive reliance on reportorial current intelligence because what is easy to read is most likely to be read. Further, the policy maker is often reluctant to accept information that challenges past experience and conventional wisdom. As a result, the analysts in the agency work under constant pressure for conformity and shun innovative, outside the box conclusions. They seldom anticipate scenarios that appear low in probability but high in consequence. Since there is no accountability, heads do not roll when disaster strikes. It is time we had legislative oversight of intelligence activities to ensure accountability of our agencies.


Kalyan K. Mitra
                                                                                    Former Principal Director,
                                                                                    DG Security, Cabinet Secretariat.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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