Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Coastal security is a major issue in Odisha given the state’s 480 km long coastline which is largely unguarded. At least it does not have the kind of security it deserves.

The issue of coastal security comes into focus from time to time when incidents reminding the authorities of its need take place. One such incident was the arrest of terror suspect, Abdul Rahman from Cuttack a few years ago. He was allegedly making recruitments for the al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent.

The cleric, who used to run a madarsa near Tangi, was suspected to have links with terror modules in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Pakistan, and the UK. The fact that he belonged to a coastal district and could have taken advantage of lax security on the Odisha coast was enough to put the focus back on the issue.

As it is the vulnerability of our coast to terrorist attacks has been a major cause of concern given that vital installations such as two missile testing facilities, an iconic Hindu temple, and a world heritage site are located along the coastline. Security along the coast is mainly the responsibility of marine police stations many of which are still ill-equipped. When Rahman’s arrest took place they were also under-staffed in some areas.

This was the case then in Kendrapara district where the three marine police stations at Jamboo, Talchua, and Tantiapala were plagued by numerous problems. Their importance for Kendrapara cannot be overemphasized considering that it the district worst-hit by infiltration from Bangladesh. Of these three marine police stations back then Jamboo was the only one to have sea-worthy speedboats that could be used to counter attacks from the sea route. The other two marine police stations were waiting for speedboats.

Manpower shortage was a major problem for them. In those days these three police stations together had a staff strength of 34 officers and constables. While the one at Talchua was being manned by 10 personnel, Tantiapala has only five to take care of day-to-day operations. The police station at Jamboo was comparatively better off with 19 personnel.

The situation was no better in Ganjam where the 70km coastal stretch between Prayagi in Rambha and Patisunapur near Golanthara remains vulnerable to terrorist strikes from the sea route. But back then the two ill-equipped marine police stations in the district had been struggling to make their presence felt.

The police station at Arjipalli was being manned by one assistant sub-inspector, six havildars and eight constables against the sanctioned strength of one inspector, six sub-inspectors, six assistant sub-inspectors, 16 havildars and 48 constables. The two boats provided to the police station had not been repaired following damage caused to them during cyclone Phailin in 2013. Things were no different at Patisunapur marine police station which was then operating from a rented house.

Things have improved during the interim period but they are still far from being satisfactory. Threat perception to the coast, thus, still remains high.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)