India: Guarding their port side

Thiruvananthapuram: A bout 4,000 fishermen patrol the 580-km coastline of the state, safeguarding the nation from  extremists or others indulging in unlawful activities. They are part of the Coastal Vigilance Committees (CVCs), a post 26/11 measure to strengthen the nation’s coastal boundaries.
With the Central Intelligence agencies sounding an alert on the likelihood of an intrusion by fundamentalists through the southern coastal boundaries of the nation, the coastal security of the state is once again under the scanner.

While the Navy, Coast Guard and state police are primarily responsible for protecting the coastal boundaries, in the post 26/11 scenario the CVCs and a joint control room of the security agencies in Kochi play crucial roles in ensuring coastal security.

Fishermen, who are members of CVCs, also known as Kadalora Jagratha Samathis, constantly update the police of any unusual movements on and off the coastal belt of the state.

The effectiveness of the CVCs even came to light during a Triton joint mock exercise conducted by the security agencies. A group of ‘terrorists’ who tried to sneak in through the Kollam coast as part of a mock exercise in 2010 were held by the security agencies, based on a tip off by CVC members.
“We used to get valuable information from the CVCs. The committee members are also imparted training on identifying unusual activities. Some incentives are also offered to them occasionally,” said DGP K.S. Balasubramanian.

The CVCs were set up under 72 police stations along the coastal areas of the state as part of a mission to strengthen coastal security following the Mumbai terror strike. All fishermen who are willing to help the security  agencies are made members in the committees.

“Being familiar with the activities along the coastal areas, the fishermen would be able to easily identify any unusual activities taking place,” said former DGP Jacob Punnoose who played a key role in the formation of the CVCs.

A joint control room of the Navy, Coast Guard and state police in Kochi, another post 26/11 initiative, is also proving to be effective in ensuring better coordination among the security agencies. Swift exchange of information that enables swift action by enforcement agencies is its major feature.
“But for the effective coordination between the security agencies, we would not have been able to track down the foreign vessels, ‘Enrica Lexie’ and the ‘Prabhu Daya’, before they left Indian territorial waters after being involved in a mishap,” said a senior police officer.

Coastal police stations still a long way to go
Thiruvananthapuram:¬†A proposal to increase the number of coastal police stations in the state from eight to 24 is progressing at snail’s pace.

It took almost a decade for the first set of eight coastal police stations in the state to materialise after the Centre took a decision in this regard. Later on, it was decided to increase the number of stations in two phases, ten more in the first phase and six in the second.

According to top police sources, identification and acquisition of land for setting up the ten stations in the next phase were progressing and the steps to construct the buildings will be initiated soon.
Meanwhile, some of the eight police stations that were already inaugurated still lacked proper facilities to carry out  patrolling in the sea. The eight stations are located at Vizhinjam, Neendakara, Thottampally, Fort Kochi, Azhikkode, Beypore, Azheekkal and Thalangara.

Coast Guard, Navy on vigil round the clock
Thiruvananthapuram: The state police, Coast Guard and Navy have stepped up vigil along the coastal areas of the state in the wake of the alert from central intelligence agencies of possible intrusion by members of a fundamentalist outfit through the Southern coastal areas of Kerala and Tamilnadu from Sri Lanka with the intention of carrying out terror strikes.

While the state police has intensified patrolling along the coastal areas,  Coast Guard and Navy have also stepped up patrolling in sea, besides carrying our air surveillance along the coastal areas. “Our teams are patrolling the seas round the clock to check any suspicious activities,” said a Coast Guard senior official.

Over the last two weeks, the state received repeated alerts from the centre regarding the intrusion plans by a  fundamentalist outfit. As per the alert, the fundamental agency was planning terror strike at Madurai or Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu. “We are not taking the alert lightly. Adequate measures have been taken in order to ensure that no intrusions take place through our coastline,” said DGP K.S. Balasubramanian.


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