India's elite commandos wait for snipers, night goggles

New Delhi: Through the grotesque narrative of 26/11, it was the commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) who India turned to for help. As they stormed hotels and the Jewish outreach centre of Chabad House, they were the men who finally got the job done.

The inquest of India's worst-ever terror attack revealed how this, India's elite commando force, was forced to battle with outdated equipment and limited training.

A national alert was sounded for a massive makeover of the NSG.  

Last week, serial blasts in Munbai hurtled across an evening rush hour. 19 people were killed, more than 131 injured. And it's just as well that the NSG was not needed till after the trio of explosions to help collect evidence.

The list of equipment required to modernise the commandos has been paralysed by red tape. 150 new German-made sniper rifles asked for in 2009 have yet to be bought because the proposal to buy them off-the-shelf was turned down. Instead, the order was clubbed with requirements listed by other central police organisations. So our commandos use vintage rifles from the 1990s.

Eight state-of the-art bomb disposal trucks for big cities like Delhi and Mumbai have not been commissioned. Each costs 25 crores and negotiations over prices with different suppliers are likely to extend for another six months.

Even smaller and cheaper items - like helmets with night vision devices - have not been ordered. Commandos expected to safeguard the country use helmets that are 20 years old. Equally shameful - fire-proof dungarees for commandos have yet to be ordered.

After 26/11, the plan was to equip every member of the Combat Task Force with the most modern system including weapons fitted with night lights, light boots and modern communication equipment. None of that has materialised so far leading to the danger that some of India's wounds in a future terror attack may well be self-inflicted.
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