Former Director-General of Police A. K. Mohanty on Wednesday said that “if made fully functional,” the Organisation to Counter Terrorist Operations (OCTOPUS) encompassing preventive architecture would have helped to a large extent in averting the twin blasts at Dilsukhnagar.
“If it were allowed to function and flourish with the full complement of the required personnel and resources, OCTOPUS would have risen to the occasion, as it had all the components required to prevent such ghastly episodes,” he said in an interview to The Hindu.
Created in October 2007 in the wake of the devastating twin blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat that claimed 43 lives and left 50 injured, the attractively named OCTOPUS was to be a specialised single command and control organisation of the police, totally dedicated to tackling terrorism in all its manifestations.
From intelligence gathering that went down to sub-division level to specialised assault teams geared for field operations, it was to be an all encompassing elite anti-terror force at State level. But six years later, an arm-less OCTOPUS looks like its oceanic cousin meandering aimlessly. It has reached a stage where no one even talks about it even as terror raised its ugly head this time leaving 16 innocents killed and over 100 injured. Ego-clashes among top police officers of the time, row over interception of communication and indifference of the government to the needs of a specialised unit, has virtually reduced OCTOPUS to a dysfunctional organisation.
Was it then a knee-jerk response typical of the government aimed at neutralising public anger that follows a terror strike? Mr. Mohanty, the no- nonsense police officer behind OCTOPUS taking a proper shape, differs a bit. “It may appear to be so now in retrospect. But in the initial stages, the government, badly shaken by series of blasts in 2007, looked sincere in putting in place a strong organisation that could pre-empt and take on terror head on. Somewhere down the line, perhaps influenced by vested interests, the government did not show the commitment required for sustaining such a specialised organisation.”
He had a point. From a requirement of 4,500 personnel, as originally estimated, it was pruned to 1,600. The budget was measly while the mission was ambitious, ranging from having watch and shadow teams to research and analysis wing for data interpretation. “I will not go into all details but OCTOPUS did not get the support that was expected,” he said.
The former IPS officer went on to assert that if OCTOPUS was nurtured well, it could have warded off Dilsukhnagar-type of blasts. “There cannot be cent per cent fool-proof security. No agency could guarantee that, but I can safely say, OCTOPUS could have prevented such incidents to the extent of 80 per cent.”
Mr. Mohanty disagreed with the argument that it merely added to multiplicity of the organisations at the national and State-level. “No. OCTOPUS is different and designed to be a dedicated force to fight terrorism 24/7. It is better to have such organisations nearer home, at State level.” In the same vein, he strongly defended the organisation taking care of both intelligence gathering and combat dismissing criticism on this count.