Nation

Revisiting 26/11: Are we Really Safe?

Known as India’s financial capital and the ‘city of dreams’, Mumbai is the muse and the Mecca not just for businessmen, migrants and politicians, but also for writers, artists and filmmakers. It is a hotbed of political strife and discussion not only because dominant and prominent political parties such as the Shiv Sena and the MNS having their headquarters there, but also because it is home to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the richest municipal corporation in India.

Rampant migration and lack of stringent governance has led to its downfall– poor air quality, unaffordable housing, water scarcity, traffic-ridden and badly maintained roads, garbage and dirt spilling over footpaths, rickety railway tracks, the list goes on and on. Terrorism was a newly added evil to this list.

Ten years have passed since the city witnessed its greatest terror attack, known worldwide as the ‘26/11 attacks’. The attacks managed to subdue the spirit of the city for days, and became an aching memory in the minds of all its residents. While the most symbolic areas of Mumbai were targeted– such as the Taj hotel, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Madam Cama hospital– the terrorists left no stone unturned in creating panic all over the city as well as the state. Close to 170 people died, including civilians, foreigners, policemen, soldiers, Anti-Terrorism Squad specialists, commandos and those belonging to the Special Forces; the country sacrificed several heroes, but was only able to catch one terrorist alive.

The 26/11 attacks took a heavy toll on public lives and infrastructure. That the terrorists arrived via sea routes, and even worked at the Taj undetected for a while before bombing the place, or opening fire at CST and the Cama Hospital– all of these aspects brought out the glaring inadequacy in the monitoring of security system at all levels. Furthermore, they showed that the was city vulnerable to many more such attacks, considering the congested population that resides in the city all day.

In the wake of the attack, a state-government appointed committee was set up under NV Mirani, a retired principal secretary, comprising of officials from the fire brigade, the Anti-Terrorist Squad, military engineering services, the State Intelligence Department, power research stations and corporate security firms in order to propose suggestions pertaining to the pitiful condition of security in the city. The committee had submitted its report in February 2009, which included suggestions such as making buildings in the city explosive-resistant and measures to avert fire mishaps, setting up police chowkies near 5-star hotels, setting up of the Maharashtra Industrial Security Force to cater to the security needs of banks, hotels and corporate houses, and so on and so forth.
It has been nearly ten years, but much does not seem to have been done in order to be prepared for, or avoid such an attack if it occurs again. A news report even stated that the Mirani Committee’s propositions were still only on paper. There has been no review of the report, while the number of skyscrapers keep increasing across the city without meeting the committee’s guidelines, which also included the suggestion of carrying out mock drills, and teaching security how to fight fire.

True to what is shown in movies, Mumbai never sleeps; it’s not a city, but a spirit that resides in each person that makes is it their home. Needless to say, owing to the employment opportunities it provides– many claim that nobody in Mumbai goes to sleep on an empty stomach at night– it has also become the migrant city of India. It no longer represents the state that houses it, rather it is more of a ‘mini-India’: it is home to people of all religions, castes, classes and states. But if this is what the city of dreams has become, one needs to start taking the reality of this city a little more seriously. It is imperative that adequate measures are undertaken, for 26/11 was a lesson learnt for a heavy price that cannot be incurred again.

Picture Credits : rediff.com



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