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with a soaring crime graph of more than 73 lakh last year, and the rising incidence of terroism, the ministry has a daunting task ahead

DP SHARAN

DP SHARAN

DP Sharan has been a journalist for the past 30 years and has served many national dailies, magazines and channels.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal agency to ensure safety and security to citizens and foreigners alike across the country as part of its responsibilities to cover Internal Security and Domestic Policy. But the pertinent question is: Could the ministry be able to serve the purpose it is meant for? If the official dossier pertaining to crime figures is to be believed, the answer is not in the affirmative.

Contrary to achievements that the ministry often recounts to make the citizens of the country more confident, the revelation by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) is potent enough to make one to stay sceptical about the abilities of the MHA.

As per the NCRB’s report, the total number of crimes reported in various manners during 2015-16 (as on November 26, 2016) from all states and UTs was 7,326,099, a staggering two crore-plus. This figure – includes violent crimes, economic crimes, sexual offences, cyber frauds, etc.

The escalating influence of terrorist and Naxal activities in India is considered to be a key area of concern for the MHA to ensure internal security. Apart from other criminal activities, terrorists and naxalites are involved in kidnapping of tourists too. While terrorists operate in places like Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern States, Naxalites rule the roost in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal.

Although the recent past has not witnessed any criminal assaults on foreign tourists/visitors, foreigners are warned not to visit certain militant-naxalite-infested areas for obvious reasons. The government of India has declared certain parts of the country as restricted areas and visitors need special permissions in advance from competent authorities to visit them.

Restricted Areas

These areas include parts of Himachal Pradesh along the Chinese border, parts of Rajasthan along the Pakistan border, portions of Uttarakhand along the Chinese border, Jammu and Kashmir near the Line of Control with Pakistan, portions of Arunachal Pradesh along the Chinese border, parts of Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Assam and Andaman and Nicobar.

Significantly, in view of the possible threat of terrorist incidents and violent public unrest, the US Government does not want its citizens to visit Jammu and Kashmir. US Government employees are prohibited to visit J&K, barring Ladakh, without the permission from the US embassy in exceptional circumstances. As per available official figures of 2014, 80,27,133 foreigners visited India for different reasons.

Even as this is to the credit of the advisories issued by the MHA that foreigners remained safe from savage attacks during the period, the MHA stands condemned in the eyes of the people for its failure to ward off major terrorist attacks, even with alerts in advance.

The recent major incidents include the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab on January 2, 2016 and the subsequent Uri attack in J&K on September 18, 2016, that claimed at least seven and 20 lives, respectively.

From January 2016 to March 2017, India witnessed eight major terrorist attacks. Apart from Pathankot and Uri, there were terrorist attacks in Pampore, Kokarajhar, Baramulla, Handwara, Nagrota and the Bhopal-Ujjain train bombing.

As per the data released by the MHA in July 2016, since 2005, terror strikes claimed 707 lives and left over 3,200 injured. Incidentally, the MHA claims to hold regular review meetings to keep the situation under control and initiate steps to ensure the law of the land.

Major Steps

In the past one year, the MHA initiated certain major steps. For instance, in the month of February, a prisoner belonging to Maharashtra was brought from Mauritius and another belonging to Israel was repatriated from the Chandigarh jail at the initiative of the MHA.

In January, four prisoners were also repatriated from Cambodia, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Earlier, on November 22, an Indian prisoner from UK was also transferred to India under Transfer of Sentenced Persons greement with UK. Transfer of Sentenced Persons accord was also signed with Estonia on November 15. Similarly, in January, MHA ordered to repatriate 39 Pakistani prisoners and fishermen.

Likewise, in November, sanction for prosecution for filing chargesheets against seven accused was accorded under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, in cases pertaining to terrorist and anti-national activities. The MHA also declared Islamic Research Foundation as an unlawful association under the Act.

More, steps were also initiated to liberalise, simplify and rationalise the Visa procedure in order to encourage foreign visitors and promote tourism that is the major source of earning of foreign exchange. Besides, the MHA played a key role in holding high-level meetings with delegates from foreign countries.

For instance, on December 5 and 6, 18th Home Secretaries conference was held between India and Bangladesh. High level talks were also held with Myanmar to exchange intelligence inputs on drug trafficking, smuggling of wildlife articles, etc.

Infructuous Modernisation

The MHA boasts of prioritising modernisation of police forces across the country and keeps on sanctioning sizeable funds for the purpose regularly.

As such, the MHA has, by and large, achieved success in exercising precautionary measures instead, even if it could not afford to prevent terrorist and naxal incidents in the country. Although it claims to keep a close vigil on infiltration bids from across the border, militant outfits such as Indian Muzahiddeen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, etc., are believed to be enjoying political patronage to play an unscrupulous role against India under the very nose of the MHA.

The anti-national forces are accused of working in tandem with militant outfits to impart military training to youths by holding training camps outside the country. Separatist leader Hafiz Saeed is a well-known figure for having alleged nexus with politicians, and he remains at large, in spite of being in the NIA’s ‘most-wanted’ list in connection with the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

To top it all, whether the MHA claims success in repatriating prisoners from foreign countries or holding high-level talks at international forum to share intelligence inputs on awful activities across the border, the issues pertaining to action against high-profile offenders remained unresolved for years. The non-repatriation of high-profile accused like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi bear testimony to the fact in this regard and is potent enough to cast aspersions on impeccable credentials of the MHA.

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