Business Line : Columns / B S Raghavan : Security at risk from officials' negligence August 5, 2011: By and large, the country's political class, pressured by public opinion, demands in Parliament or judicial activism, has taken action against Ministers, including Chief Ministers, accused of malfeasance of various kinds, removing them summarily from public office and launching investigations. It may well be that it does so grudgingly, resorting to cover-ups and other subterfuges to weaken the prosecution, or foul up the cases in courts. But action of some kind there has undeniably been, particularly after the fight against corruption had begun gripping the people's imagination nation-wide. Some recent examples are the scams relating to Adarsh Housing Estate, Commonwealth Games, allocation of 2G licences, Hasan Ali and so on. The number of political and corporate big shots caught in the clutches of the long arm of the law and jailed without bail has perhaps been the largest in living memory. But the ruling political dispensation has been, strangely and inexplicably, very lax in dealing with high officials in positions impinging on national security for their failures, tantamount to negligence, where they could do, and had, in fact, done, great harm. The first such egregious laches was in respect of the Mumbai carnage of 26/11 when 10 members of Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) managed to infiltrate by sea into the city and freely went about dealing death and destruction for three days. I have it on the high authority of a security expert familiar with threats faced by the nation, that there was no lack of advance intelligence about the plans of the LET for a sea-borne commando raid, but, despite this, no effective steps were taken to strengthen the coastal defence and inland security in the targeted coastal areas. â€œThere was no advance thinking on what kind of follow-up action was called for on the available intelligence and on how to take that follow-up action and under whose operational leadership. There was a total failure of security alertness before the infiltrators managed to land in Mumbai.â€ This, in the expert's opinion, was what offered spectacular success on a platter to the LET. â€œSECURITY FRAUDâ€ He has concluded that the failure of the human element and not deficiencies in technical capabilities was the principal factor facilitating the murderous spree of the desperadoes of the LET. Concerted advance action by the National Security Adviser, the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary at the Centre and the Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police in Maharashtra could have easily prevented this. Last June, the media gave extensive coverage to a â€œsecurity fraudâ€ of Rs 450-crore unearthed by the CAG in the purchase of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the Hyderabad-based National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) under the Research and Analysis Wing and overseen by the National Security Adviser. There were also reports of serious security violation in not conducting a mandatory check in the purchase of an encryption system for the NTRO's mobile satellite communication system, Sampark, and the entire hardware becoming junk. Now comes the disturbing news of Pavit, an abandoned Panama-flagged merchant ship, drifting near or in Indian waters for about 100 hours before finally running aground in Mumbai. As The Hindu has pointed out, â€œThe Navy, responsible for security beyond 12 nautical miles, the Coast Guard, which patrols the zone between 5 and 12 nautical miles and the newly-created Marine Police, all failed to detect it.â€ UNPRODUCTIVE INQUIRIES Considering the grave dangers to which these omissions had exposed the nation in all these instances, all the officials occupying top positions of authority and oversight should have been instantly relieved of their functions; even dismissal under the article of the Constitution which gives the Government the power to dispense with the usual departmental proceedings would have been justified in some cases. Instead, the Government has been content with the rigmarole of unproductive inquiries, which are soon lost within the catacombs of the Government. This is no way of enforcing accountability and being alive to the vital importance of national security in these troubled times.