26/11: No force in Force One

26/11: No force in Force One

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Mumbai:  Mumbai's elite anti-terror squad, Force One, was formed just after 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Created along the lines of Israel's Mossad, the commando body is expected to guard the city like a fort and be ready 24 hours to repel any terror attack. But two years later, Force One is yet to gather force, with no home to stay and lack of funds.

The 99-acre plot announced as a Force One hub is still locked in a dispute with tribals who live there. So without enough space, Force One struggles to train its 300 hand-picked commandos.

But lack of space is just one of its handicaps.

In the last two years, Force One has had only three training sessions of 15 days each with its Israeli trainers. Reason, sources say, is lack of funds. Each session costs the state Rs 10 lakh.

The commando body also faces a serious equipment crunch. Only ten per cent of the commandos have bullet-proof vests and helmets. Other essentials of terror-fighting, like blast-proof eyewear, goggles with rear view, stun grenades and digital radios, were promised but never arrived.

When US President Barack Obama visited Mumbai last month, the Mumbai Police didn't deploy its Force One. It instead asked the National Security Guards to help with security. This clearly is the most telling sign of Force One's lack of equipment.

Yet, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil claims Mumbai is much better prepared today. ''We have made a lot of arrangements," he said recently.

The Force One story, however, may not be entirely true of the police force - Mumbai's first line of defence.

The state has ordered for it Rs 36 crore worth arms and ammunition in the last two years. Yet, the bulk of the force is not firearm trained. And of the 43,000 cops, only 150 have bullet-proof jackets.

To guard the vulnerable coastline, the police flaunt a fleet of amphibian vehicles. Yet many of them cannot swim in high seas or use marine equipment.

Today, as the memorial parade showcases the might of Mumbai police, what goes unsaid is the story of an overworked, ill-trained and under-equipped force, forced to stand guard against mighty terror attacks.

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