Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 23:
On the eve of Republic Day of India, keeping in mind the specific terrorist threat intelligence issued to Odisha, we did a survey of different areas of the capital city and spoke to different people to find out how prepared Commissionerate Police is to face the situation. Here is how it looks like on the ground.
Commissioner of Police Rajendra Sharma is leaving nothing to chance to ensure the safety of the denizens. Sharma, who presided over an emergency meeting of top cops of the city to work out a strategy to tackle the situation, informed us that 45 platoons of cops will be deployed to avoid any untoward incident.
“The Striking Force, Quick Action Team, Special Anti-terror Unit or Special operation Group (SOG) commandoes have been asked to be in readiness. We might also deploy the Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) if required,” said a senior police official.
While all entry points to the city have been sealed, blockade on roads have started from last night. The cops have started conducting raids on hotels, guest houses and lodges to verify the records of guests and ensure no illegal activity is allowed.
Armed police will be deployed at sensitive places of the city, including the railway station, Baramunda Bus Terminal, important market complexes, Lingaraj temple and a few other places.
The police are also monitoring the CCTV footage from cameras installed in 27 important places of the city and have started conducting surprise checks or automobiles at different places.
Preparation for Republic Day in Capital
Cops are taking special care to ensure safety on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg (the road where Republic Day ceremony is held and parade is conducted) given its proximity to state secretariat and railway station and arrival of thousands of visitors and the presence of VIPS. The crowd and importance of the place makes it a probable target for the terrorists.
While blockade is already in place on the roads, vehicles are being inspected by dog squad and cops around the area.
Civil Aviation Ministry of the Union Government, which is responsible for the security of the airport, has also intensified security checks by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) commandoes, have implemented the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) under high alert which will continue till January 31, airport sources said.
“We usually receive such high alerts around Independence Day and Republic Day. However, we are taking extra precaution because of the direct mention of the state in the intelligence report. We are ready to face any eventuality,” said Sharad Kumar, Director of the airport.
“We are using 67 CCTV cameras in the domestic terminal and 44 more in Terminal-2 and continuously monitoring them. We have set up a system to trigger alarm, if a luggage remains unattended for more than 15 minutes. We have deployed Quick Response Team (QRT) commandoes for greater security and have stationed two commandoes each in all 13 watch towers,” Sharad added.
The Railway Station
We, however, found the security at the railway station to be lax. With only 30 constables, 30 home-guards and 10 unarmed forces, the preparedness doesn’t inspire much confidence, given the fact that thousands enter and exit the station every day. There are only a handful of RPF commandoes and only one officer at the luggage scanning machine.
“With this level of staffing and arms, it is hard to defend a terrorist threat,” confessed a GRP police officer on conditions of anonymity.
The cops have clearly forgotten to provide security for this historical monument, which also has a huge religious significance. We could only see a constable and an officer of ASI rank guarding the large place that witnesses thousands of visitors every single day.
The only job they are doing so far is to ask the visitors not to carry cell phones inside the temple.
Police commissioner Sharma, however, has plans to deploy additional forces here soon.
School and Media houses
Given the recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Paris, attacks on School and Media houses can’t also be ruled out, which usually celebrate the Republic Day with great fanfare and complete attendance. “The police are aware of the situation and attacks on such institutions can’t be ruled out,” said another top cop, while he could not give us any details of any specific measures taken to avoid any untoward incident.
City cops are keeping a special vigil of Bangaladeshi immigrants (not refugees) living around the slums of Malisahi, Badagada Gadhiakhala and Laxmi Sagar Haldi Padia.
These immigrants, who usually run scrap businesses, have also been found involved in many incidents of crime in the city. The possibility of these immigrants giving shelter to terrorists or carrying out such an act themselves can’t be ruled out. Unfortunately, they are now getting all government benefits given the vote bank politics.
A special team of Commissionerate Police is monitoring their activities and police informers have been asked to be alert in those areas.