March 05, 2009

Terrorism, IPL and a new security strategy

Trust the Government of India to come out with the most ham-handed response to the Islamist attack on Cricket : the youngest and most widespread religion in South Asia. The stupidity of the proposal to defer the IPL is on par with thoughts of asking Tata Steel to shut down the blast furnaces for a week at Jamshedpur, or ONGC to stop pumping oil from Bombay High for some time because of the preoccupation of the security forces with the elections !

IPL is not a 'game' anymore, something that can be deferred till the next weekend ! It is a big business which generates income, results in taxes, creates jobs and provides fun. Just because it provides fun does not mean that its economic impact is any less compared to any other business activity. If we defer or cancel the IPL it means that the Islamists have managed to shut down an important business activity and the Government of India should hang its head in shame for being brow beaten into submission by the combined might of LeT-JeM-AlQuaida !

But given the stupidity and the arrogance of the petty bureaucrat in India, it is difficult to believe that they can think differently. However the business community in India -- which has a long history of dealing with the incompetence and obstructionism of the governement -- should come out with a plan that will hopefully allow the IPL to go forward.

What could be the contours of such a plan ? The obvious answer is a private security organisation that can take over a part of the job of the beleagured state security apparatus. We already have global private security companies -- some of them even operating on behalf of the US goverment in Iraq -- who can be roped in. Security companies in India should also view this as a huge business opportunity to upgrade their capability and provide additional value added services.

The state security agencies have, of course, one massive advantage over their private counterparts -- they have the constitutional right to bear lethal weapons and the authority to use them -- and be immune to the consequences thereof -- against the civilian population. No private organisation should be given that liberty as otherwise we would end up creating another monster of Frankenstein proportions ! We need to remember that the Taliban was created by the US Government and the Americans lived in denial of this stupidity until 9/11. But then what good is a private security agency in the face of terrorists who are armed and dangerous ? Despite all the tokenism about MK Gandhi's spectacles we all know that Gandhigiri is fun to watch only in Munnabhai ! In reality, throwing roses at bearded mullahs is about as effective as using a hand fan to blow away a cyclone.

So our business leaders are caught on the horns of a dilemma : We need guns for our guards but it is dangerous to give it to them. What to do ?

Think different !

Do we really need guns ? Do a thousand pot bellied policemen with 303 Enfield rifles really provide any kind of security ?

Not really. Real security can come only through intelligence and this is where the private security agencies must excel. Intelligence gathering is a skill that is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Indian police -- they have been at it since British times -- but it is the administrative setup and political interference that has ruined them completely. Our state investigative agencies are full of political appointees who work at cross purposes that result in colossal failures like 26/11. However a private security agency, staffed with the best investigators and detectives poached from the dysfunctional police with corporate level salaries, and using the latest tools and techniques of electronic and satellite technology should be able to rip into the terrorist network with the same level of efficiency as the police networks in America and Europe. Armed with this kind of precise information, our policemen -- though fewer in number -- should be adequate to protect the IPL

In terms of ability, Indians are no less competent than the best and brightest in the world -- it is only that the government must get out of the way ( Remember Dewang Mehta's comment on why Indian IT and Indian Beauty is so successful ... he was referring to Miss World's and Miss Universe's that India suddenly produced in the 1990s, along with the software services story )

So my suggestion would be for the IPL to contract with a top end security agency to provide real intelligence and then convince the men-in-khaki and the men-in-khadi that it is OK to go ahead with the IPL.

And then of course if there is a bomb burst and a few people die -- what to do ? Part of the hazards of living in a dangerous neighbourhood. If you dont like it, please go and live in New Zealand and allow us to enjoy the cheerleaders of the IPL !
This blog post was picked up by the BBC World Service and I was invited to participate in a discussion on the "World Have Your Say" program that was broadcast on 24th March 2009.
This program is available in this podcast available at

1 comment:

Sampat Jain said...

Dr. Mukerjee,

I agree with most of your view points that you put across. A slight difference arose that I think in our views is how we see the postponing of the event. I see the postponing of IPL as postponing of expansion plan when the capital market is not doing good and it is difficult to raise funds. Same way here it is not easy to convey other countries (after what has happen in Pakistan) that India is safer place. So if it is postponement for 4-6weeks I don't see any problem in it, but, if that extends I think the business may turn out to be bad for the suppliers and distributors and thus impacting IPL

Sampat Bhansali