Saturday, November 29, 2008

This time, I can't do anguish, breast-beating, or sheer expressions of horror. There's enough of that going on. Be angry at the Lashkar by all means, but spare some for the twats we elect to run things.

Praveen Swami outlines the staggering intelligence failures that enabled these events. The Government of India had access to intelligence that suggested that Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning attacks from the sea on the western seaboard. Here's the horrifically important banal stuff:

'Based on these warnings, New Delhi moved to step up coastal counter-infiltration measures. In its 2007-2008 Annual Report, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs detailed the measures put in place for “strengthening coastal security arrangements, to check infiltration.” In liaison with the nine coastal States and Union Territories, it said, funds had been earmarked to set up “73 coastal police stations which will be equipped with 204 boats, 153 jeeps and 312 motorcycles for mobility on coast and in close coastal waters. The coastal police stations will also have a marine police with personnel trained in maritime activities.”

Precise figures are unavailable, but officials in three States told The Hindu that progress in realising the scheme was painfully slow. Both Maharashtra and Gujarat inaugurated over a dozen coastal police stations over the last year, but neither State set up a trained marine police. Fewer than a dozen new boats were made available to the two police forces. Without sophisticated surveillance equipment fitted on board, their use for counter-infiltration work was at best rudimentary. And while the Intelligence Bureau received sanction for hiring small numbers of new personnel to man new costal surveillance stations last year, it got neither boats nor observation equipment.'

And there were staggering operational failures. NDTV has just reported that the NSG has no dedicated aircraft to ferry commandos to sites where they might be needed. Instead, they had to wait for a plane to be made available and did the last leg of their journey by bus. BY BUS!

Moving on. Every life lost everywhere is equally significant and equally worthy of commemoration. But it took Shyam Benegal to ask Barkha Dutt why the media were focusing relentlessly on the victims at the Taj (and, to a lesser extent, the Oberoi). What about those who lost their lives at VT? Are they to remain faceless?, he asked. A chastened Barkha acknowledges that there seems to be a class dimension to the solidarity and empathy we are expressing.

The gold medal for bullshit goes to Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga for his memorialisation of the attack on the Taj:

One of the differences between India and other countries is that a lot of our civic space is contained within the five-star hotels. They have a different function here for us, they are places where marriages happen, where people of all economic backgrounds go for a coffee.

Is he fucking nuts?

Shyam Benegal cut to the bone with his question.
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