A few days ago, five fishing boats belonging to two fishing communities were torched in the sea, barely about 100 metres from the coast, by the members of the communities after they clashed over the use of ring seines or ring nets, near Vasavanipalem, a fishing hamlet by the coast near the city.
Eight persons from the communities were injured in the clash and the incident shook the peaceful fabric of the city.
City Police, Coastal Security Police (CSP) and the Indian Coast Guard had to move into action to resolve the issue. But the question that arises after the incident is whether the damage could have been minimised, and many senior police officers say that its intensity and scale of rioting could have been minimised, if the CSP was empowered to its desired vision.
The CSP personnel couldn’t do much during the clash as they lacked the teeth to take control of the situation on sea and had to wait till the Indian Coast Guard could come and intervene. “We want to do, but we lack the support and infrastructure,” said an officer in the CSP.
In bad shape
The CSP was formally set up in Andhra Pradesh and across all coastal States based on an order from the Union Government, post the Mumbai attack in 2008. However, there was a shortcoming in every department and much needed to be done, if the vision to make it an elite force was to be realised, said experts.
The idea was to have a three-tier security system with the Navy and the Indian Coast Guard forming the first and second tiers. In A.P., the CSP has a jurisdiction of 12 nautical miles from the coast and 500 metres inside the coast. The Centre had sanctioned funds for building 21 police stations and acquiring 18 fast interceptor boats (FIBs) in two phases from 2006. “But today, the police stations are existent but they are understaffed by at least 60% and many of them who are posted are either on the verge of retirement or are on punishment transfer, without any motivation,” said a senior officer, who has retired from CSP as an Additional DG.
All the 18 boats are presently lying defunct and though there are police stations along the coast there are no jetties built close by. All the FIBs are not in working condition, as the annual maintenance contract expired years ago.
“Though the boats are supplied by the Union Government, their maintenance, including fuel supply, is the State’s responsibility and the State has no funds to cater to the need,” said another officer, who is presently serving in the CSP.
The Centre has also sanctioned about ₹3.5 crore for building jetties, but it was insufficient and the State government did not want to chip in. Even arms and communication equipment are in shortfall,” he said.
Though some former senior officers, including those in the rank of DGPs, had earlier stated that the CSP needed to be made a strike force such as the Greyhounds, keeping in view the threats from the sea side, very little has been done so far.
Even the proposed training facility at Machilipatnam was shelved after land was identified and sanctioned. The force was not trained for seafaring and still had to depend on ICG, it is said.
“To give a fillip to the force, there should be separate recruitment or at least young recruits should be made to work for a year to two on deputation, the arms should be procured and the force trained to be seafarers. The boats should be repaired and made functional and at least five new police stations with jetties should be built and the 12 new FIBs that had been sanctioned in the third phase should be procured,” said a senior officer.
“We have the second longest coastline of 974 km after Gujarat and we need to take a leaf from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, on how effectively they are managing their CSP. The CSP should be brought up at least to act as a deterrent,” he added.