Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai disaster: a need for centralized and coordinated crisis management

While watching for hours together on TV the latest terrorist attack on Mumbai, I was thinking, on the basis of a study I had done earlier, that the management of the crisis could have been different and more effective if a proper system was in place. This statement is not meant in any way to be critical of the brave and committed efforts by the police, National Security Guards (NSG) and the Defense Forces in fighting the terrorists.

A few years back I had submitted a project profile on National Disaster Management, which also briefly covered terrorism, to the Government of India. The then Cabinet Secretary convened a meeting at Delhi to which I was invited and given the opportunity to speak first. This was followed by discussions.

It was a disappointing exercise for me. Most of the people who attended could only see localized situations, say, like cyclones on the East Coast, and not the total picture. However, I understand that my suggestions including the name for the organization were given due consideration when the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was formed under the Ministry of Home Affairs. I am not aware how effectively the NDMA is operating.

The world runs on meticulously prepared systems, and dedicated and qualified men who implement and run them. Was such procedure available and followed when the terrorists struck Mumbai on November 26? I do not know.

If such a plan was in force, a unified command would have taken over immediately when the magnitude of the attack became evident. The top officials would have been in the War Room to help the crisis management with their experience, expertise and genius.

Perhaps our intelligence system requires a revamp. It seems to be based more on traditional concepts. And there are so many agencies involved, coming under different ministries and states. Sometimes they cooperate with each other and at other times each proceeds alone. A centralized coordinating mechanism seems to be the answer.

One of the points that I had stressed in my report to the Government of India was that VIPs should stay away from disaster sites. Their visits distract people who are engaged in critical assignments and overburden the police with their security concerns.

And lastly – the people who are agitating to keep non-Maharashtrians out of Mumbai would be doing a great service if they instead focus their energy and efforts to sanitize this great city from terrorists. Those who are so bravely fighting the invaders include many non-Maharashtrians. They come from several parts of the country and belong to different castes and communities.


Also see:

Religion, terrorism, and politics



"VIPs should stay away from disaster sites."

"..people who are agitating to keep non-Maharashtrians out of Mumbai would be doing a great service if they instead focus their energy and efforts to sanitize this great city from terrorists."

Excellent points. Is anyone listening?

Ashutosh said...

Abraham, you've pinpointed a number of suggestions definitely worth being given a thought. Only if the ones in power would take them seriously....
I would request you to submit your article link to the 'Rebuild India' mission, a forum that has been initiated by bloggers as a response to the 26/11 attacks. Following is the link of the forum

Anonymous said...

First of all my sincere respects for all the brave and the innocent who shed their lives in the tragedy.

Yes we need a more efficient and comprehensive disaster management strategy in place.

It is a welcome move to have the NSG (Black Cats) being deployed at major cities, as in future the reaction time would be reduced.

Black Cats took about 9 hours to reach Mumbai, as state police were not a match for the organized terrorists.

The future strategy should be pro-active disaster prevention and aversion mechanisms along with sound systems in place to act in a crisis, whether it is natural or man-made.

The threats we are facing are not limited to bombings or shootings, but issues such as cyber terrorism, bio terrorism, natural disasters, possible riot like situations or every other possible means should be accounted for in the future Disaster Management Strategy, and a unified command should be established to deal with such emergencies and the remedial actions can be well coordinated.

By the 'look and feel' of the alleged 'terrorists' pictures available on internet,I am compelled to suspect, something much wider and further up in the map may also be involved in the whole saga, other than the usual suspects.

Not to forget the recent sinking of the Somalian 'pirate' mother ship by Indian Navy.

Anonymous said...

You are all right; even I am right when I sepak eloquently on such issues. But tell me can a nation remote-controlled by an Italian and steered by a mumbling Sikh get on its feet and fight enemy with gusto? I don't feel so. We are a nation inhabited by good people inluenced by several cultures but unfortunately governed by goons elected by a scheduled caste constitution. It is sickening...

Anonymous said...

These days the Italian Remote control is defunct, and Manmohan JI is not mumbling either!

Clearly one can see Manmohan Singh being at the helm of things and not anymore being driven from the back seat.

Ofcourse the goons remain pretty the same, yet there is much improvement I guess.

Radical leaders like Manmohan Singh and AK Antony can liberate India's soul from dynastical hero-worshiping tendencies.

BJP has lost its soul since Vajpayee's tenture and the demise of the charishmatic Pramod Mahajan.

I feel pity about my own country about the Italian Remote Control aspect, but it is much less effective these days than ever before.