Text of the Home Minister’s opening remarks at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security
I welcome you to this conference on Internal Security. I am glad that this conference has become an annual event. This is the fourth such conference. I think that in every succeeding conference we have been able to build on the conclusions of the previous conference and this has helped the Central Government and the state governments to enhance their capacity to meet the challenges to internal security. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for agreeing to inaugurate the conference and spend the better part of the day with us. I am also grateful to the Chief Ministers and Heads of delegations for accepting our invitation and joining the deliberations.
I wish to give you an overview of the internal security situation in the country.
We live in a troubled neighbourhood. Some of our neighbours appear to be vulnerable not only to acts of terror but also to destablising political developments, the consequences of which affect India in one way or another. Some obvious consequences are cross border terrorism, covert support to insurgents, arms smuggling, fake Indian currency notes (FICN), inflow of refugees, and immigration. We have to deal with each one of them within the constraints of our obligations under international law and domestic law and in consonance with our open and democratic system.
While the people of India are the final judges, I am happy to report that the internal security situation has vastly improved during the last two years. This is due, in a large measure, to the cooperation that we have received from the state governments and the congruence in the views of the Central Government and the state governments. I thank you for your understanding and support, and I look forward to your valuable advice as well as your continued cooperation.
No country in the world appears to be entirely immune to the threat of terror. In 2010, there were at least 35 incidents that could be characterised as major terrorist attacks. In the first month of this year, there have been at least 13 major acts of terror. Terrorist acts, or serious attempts to commit such acts, have taken place in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Philippines, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and the United States. You will notice that most terrorist incidents are in regions not far from our borders. India, therefore, remains vulnerable to terrorism. In 2010, there was one major incident in Pune on February 13, 2010. There was another incident in Varanasi on December 7, 2010 that caused, thankfully, little damage. In both cases, there was specific intelligence that was shared with the state government concerned. In the case of the Pune attack, the State police authorities had issued an advisory to the establishments in the area including the German Bakery that was attacked. In my view, it would be unrealistic to expect that intelligence can be any more specific than what was gathered and shared in the two cases. The lessons that must be learnt are that vigilance is not an ‘on and off’ matter; vigilance must be 24x7, especially when alerts are issued; otherwise, despite the best of intentions of the police, there will be lapses that will result in casualties.
I am sure you will agree with me that two incidents of terror in a period of 26 months mark a significant improvement in the situation. However, I must caution you that there is no let up in the attempts to infiltrate into India from across the India-Pakistan border. Besides, there are a number of modules operating within the country; and new groups have raised their heads that are suspected to be behind some terrorist attacks that took place in recent years. We cannot shy away from naming these groups or exposing their designs. Whatever their religious affiliations, I have no hesitation in condemning every group that resorts to terror as a means of advancing dubious religious causes or fundamentalist goals. Our policy in this regard is clear: every terrorist and every terrorist group will be pursued and brought before the law and punished. At the end of 2010, 47 major terrorist cases were under investigation or trial; 11 new cases were entrusted to the National Investigation Agency in 2010; and, last year, convictions were obtained in one major case.
Left-wing extremism or naxalism remains a grave challenge. Following the decisions of the Cabinet Committee on Security in October 2009, the Central government provided additional forces to the States affected by naxalism. The state governments too recruited more personnel, invested more in training, acquired better and more weapons, and boldly engaged the naxalites, more particularly the CPI (Maoist). Looking back at 2010, my assessment is that there is a kind of a stalemate. The state governments concerned cannot claim any major advance, nor should we conclude that the CPI (Maoist) has gained the upper hand. There have been casualties on both sides. The CPI (Maoist) remains a powerful and determined adversary and has added at least four companies to the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). Its goal remains seizure of power through an “armed liberation struggle.” In 2010, they killed 718 civilians of which 323 were killed after branding them as ‘police informers’. Unlike our security forces, the naxalite cadres are not constrained by the rule of law or the rules of conflict: in areas they dominate they act as judge, jury and executioner. I regret that no representative of civil society has called for an inquiry into the brutal and unlawful killing of civilians and other acts of depredation committed by the CPI (Maoist).
There is no dilution in our two-pronged approach of development and police action to contain the challenge of naxalism. I am of the firm view that our two-pronged approach will succeed, but we must be resolute and patient. Meanwhile, the Government’s offer of talks remains valid on condition that the CPI (Maoist) abjured violence. I have invited the Chief Ministers of LWE-affected States to a separate meeting later in the evening and we shall review more closely the security situation in those States.
The other challenge to security is the challenge posed by insurgent groups, especially in the North Eastern States. It gives me great satisfaction to report that there has been a dramatic change in the situation in the North East. 2010 witnessed the lowest level of violence in many years. Barring Assam and Manipur, the other States have shown remarkable improvement. No civilian was killed in Nagaland or Mizoram. No security personnel was killed in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland or Mizoram. Nine insurgent groups are in talks with the Government or are poised to commence talks. The time has come to change our perceptions of the insurgent groups. So long as they are willing to talk and reach honourable and just settlements, we must treat their leaders honourably and fairly; we must give their cadres an opportunity to return to the mainstream of society and start new lives; and we must prepare the people for reconciliation. We hope to be able to conclude agreements with some of the groups in the near future, and I seek your good wishes and support in this regard.
Jammu and Kashmir presents a unique challenge. The situation was improving until the beginning of June, 2010. The three month period of agitation was an unfortunate and deeply regrettable chapter. However, after the visit of the all-party parliamentary delegation and the appointment of Interlocutors, there has been a significant improvement. We have worked hard for the peace that the State has enjoyed in the last four months. The Interlocutors have been able to change the discourse. We have tasked them to outline the contours of a political solution based on the suggestions received by them. My earnest appeal is that nothing should be said or done that will destroy the fragile peace or derail the process of finding a political solution.
2010 also had its share of local conflicts and disturbances but nothing that threatened internal security. I must however draw attention to the numerous rasta rokos and rail rokos that affect normal life and the economy. It is estimated that the railways alone suffer a loss of revenue-earning traffic of about Rs.1,500 crore per year. I would urge Chief Ministers – as well as the political parties that we represent – to pay attention to this growing problem. While there is a place for peaceful protest in a democracy, let us spare our highways and railways.
Let me now give you a synopsis of the work done in 2010 and what remains to be done. Just before we held the first Chief Ministers’ conference, there were 530,580 vacancies in the State police forces as on 1.1.2009. In two years, you have added 116,903 personnel to your forces. This is a remarkable achievement, but it also highlights the distance that remains to be covered. We filled a little over 45,000 vacancies in the CPMFs and massive recruitment is under way in the CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles. Besides, 11,985 new posts have been sanctioned to the NSG.
Huge amounts have been provided for procurement by the CPMFs. The equipment that has been or is being procured include assault rifles, carbines and pistols; BP jackets; mine-protected or bullet proof vehicles and armoured troop carriers; motorcycles, rescue boats and attack crafts; night vision equipment etc. You have used funds released under the Modernisation of Police Force Scheme, Security Related Expenditure and Special Infrastructure Scheme amounting to Rs.1,320 crore in 2009-10 and Rs.1,336 crore in 2010-11. Border fencing, border roads and floodlighting works are in progress. More BoPs are being constructed on the India-Bangladesh and India-Pakistan borders. Phase II of the Coastal Security Scheme, at an estimated cost of Rs.1,580 crore, will begin on April 1, 2011. This will help you set up more police stations, acquire more boats, vehicles and other equipment, and construct more jetties. All forensic science laboratories are being upgraded and strengthened. The authorised strength of the IPS has been increased from 3889 (as on 1.1.2009) to 4,720 (as on 1.1.2011). Training capacity is being expanded significantly. IB is setting up four more Regional Training Centres. Every CPMF is augmenting training capacity and 20 CIAT Schools have been sanctioned.
All this does not mean that I have no worries or that you have no cause for worry. I worry about security at our airports, I worry about coastal security, I worry about the slow pace of procurement, I worry about the quality of training imparted to security personnel. My biggest worry, however, is that we might slide into complacency and begin to think that ‘God is in heaven, and all is well with the world.’ Pune and Varanasi should jolt us out of complacency. Silda, Dantewada, Narayanpur and the tragedy that struck the Gnaneshwari Express should remind us of the nature of the adversary. And the evidence that the NIA and CBI are discovering every day should serve as a wake-up call to the new sources of terror that threaten our security.
I am afraid that we have not yet been able to get out of the ‘business as usual’ mode. I am sure many of you feel the same way as I do. When policy decisions are deferred, when procurement is disrupted, when delivery is delayed, I feel frustrated. But we cannot give up. We must take bold and hard decisions, and we must take them now. The best security lies in adding to capacity – human, material, intelligence and systems. On behalf of the central government, I assure you of our full support. On behalf of the people of India, I appeal to you to allocate more resources, devote more time, and provide greater direction to the security forces in your state. I am confident that, together, we can prevail, we shall succeed, and we will make this country strong, safe and secure.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine