Palika security leaves police jittery

Devesh K. Pandey

NEW DELHI: The Delhi police are concerned over "laxity" on the part of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in plugging loopholes in the security arrangements for the busy Palika Bazar in Connaught Place, particularly in view of the upcoming Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

The police have been urging the NDMC authorities to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in and outside Palika Bazar so that a constant surveillance is kept on visitors. After the October 29 serial explosions in Delhi that claimed 66 lives and left over 200 injured, the police insisted that the matter be cleared at the earliest.

"All the time, we get the reply that the proposal has been tabled and is awaiting approval from the competent authorities," said a senior police officer.

For his part, the NDMC security officer, Captain Bhola Thakur, said the project was in the pipeline. "For security purposes, we have installed nine door-frame metal detectors and equal numbers of hand-held metal detectors at all the entry-exit doors," he said. But it has been observed that the security guards deployed at the gates seldom frisk the visitors.

Apart from the delay in installation of a CCTV system, the police have spotted certain loopholes in the contingency mechanism meant for the market. In the event of a power failure, the complex does not have a full-fledged electricity back-up system.

"In case electric supply to the entire premises gets interrupted, it would become difficult for us to carry out evacuation in case of an eventuality," said the police officer. But Capt Thakur said the generator sets installed for the purpose were sufficient.

As a precautionary measure, the police had also advised the civic body to install yellow luminous stripes across the market complex showing the customers a safe way out of the underground complex in case of a power failure. But there has been no response from the other side so far. The police have also been asking the civic body to do away with the 40-odd vehicles lying abandoned in the Palika Bazar parking lot for the past year.

"It is a major cause for concern as terrorists can plant explosives in any of those vehicles," the police officer added. Capt Bhola said arrangements were being made to auction the vehicles through a State Government agency.

While the police are awaiting an early implementation of "in-the-pipeline" projects, Capt Bhola insists that a thorough evacuation plan for the market is under way, adding however that another department is looking after that project.