About 392 poachers were apprehended last year: Lieutenant-General Marwah

Thanks to a constant vigil over the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, security forces had been able to apprehend about 392 poachers, quite a few of them from Myanmar, during the last year, Lieutenant-General N.C. Marwah, Commander-in-Chief of the inter-services Andaman and Nicobar Command, said.

Interacting with a group of journalists from the mainland here on Sunday, Lt.-Gen. Marwah said the command had been using aerial and surface means, with support from the islanders, to keep ‘a strict vigil' over the 572 islands in the archipelago spread over a distance of 760 km in the strategically important part of the country.

‘Coordinated mechanism ‘

“There is a coordinated mechanism of reasonably efficient surveillance over the islands, of which only 37 are inhabited,” he said.

“Besides the stakeholders, the islanders have been co-opted into the coastal security mechanism, which is periodically tested by way of exercises. Various contemporary scenarios, including threats from non-State players, are played out during these exercises so as to evolve standard operating procedures (SOP) for responding to contingencies,” Lt.-Gen. Marwah said.

The command also held regular ‘jaan-pehchan' (familiarisation) patrols of teams comprising Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police personnel. “The teams visit islands to interact with people, conduct medical camps and listen to their grievances, acting as a conduit to convey their problems to the civil authorities. Besides several such medical camps, we also held 16 specialists' camps last year. During such visits to outlying islands, they sensitise people on the need to be vigilant. Several instances of poaching were thus reported by the fishermen. About 70 per cent of them are equipped with distress alert transmitters,” he said.

The island group had a fair number of coastal radars for surveillance. There would soon be many more in place as per the Union Home Ministry's perspective plan, Lt.-Gen. Marwah said.

Besides the security challenge, remoteness from the mainland [1,262 km], resources, infrastructure and weather made the task of the command arduous. Frequent cyclones and heavy rain lasting about four to five months in a year put the brakes on infrastructure-building. Several measures — including recreational facilities, allowances and free and discounted travel facilities — had been put in place to keep the personnel posted under the command motivated and happy, he said.

The command conducted amphibious operation drills involving the three Services on a regular basis to maintain operational readiness. Efforts were, however, under way to augment infrastructure and operational assets, Lt.-Gen. Marwah said.