Friday, August 20, 2010

Tech-enabled security

It is not surprising that the State Government has decided to instal closed circuit television cameras at strategic points in Imphal, including the Raj Bhawan and the official residence of the Chief Minister. Given the global scenario as well as the situation here, there is no element of surprise in the decision of the State Government to go ahead with the “Tech-Enabled Security System” and we have come across quite a number of cases where footages from the strategically placed CCTVs have come in handy while investigating a case. The reliance on technology for National security as well as to neutralise any subversive plots hatched by terror outfits, saw a sudden rise post September 11, 2001 and with terrorism now cutting across National boundaries and picking up victims at random, mostly unarmed, hapless civilians, the need for security technology has never been felt as urgently as the time we live in presently. Security technology is not only about CCTVs or video footages, but has to do with a whole gamut of system which include, information storing, intelligence sharing, keeping track of the movement of a suspect, satellite mapping, classified information, in fact all that one can think of in terms of utilising all the technical know how, one has at one's disposal. There is also the need for close co-ordination or a system, where the technologies are intricately linked and come under a large canvass, which is the over all security arrangements taken up by a State Government or a Nation. The rapid development in the information technology sector and the coming to age of modern gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, internet etc, has also meant a giant leap for mankind towards a technology driven race and why not ? The increasing dependence on the use of technology for security reasons can be seen everywhere, whether one is at an airport or checking into a star hotel or trying to get hold of a driving license or a credit card or a passport. Nothing is left to chance, we must say. However the bitter truth is, whatever progress mankind has made to harness technical skills and expertise in ensuring the security of the people or a country, this has not been able to completely put a stop to subversive activities. The 26/11 terror attack at Mumbai in 2008, the underground railway attack at England some years back and the recent discovery of a bomb fitted car at New York in the USA are examples of how terror groups can infiltrate the tightest of security or the most sophisticated or efficient technology in use. Remember they also have their own set ups, which comprise extremely tech-savvy radicals. Earlier, it was mostly about well trained, well groomed sniffer dogs, with a rank in the security set up to boot, which were largely relied upon to detect landmines or booby traps in unfamiliar and hostile terrain. Today the sniffer dogs have had to make way for sophisticated gadgets to detect the killer bomb buried somewhere along the way or forewarn the approach of the enemy. Yes, “Tech-enabled security” is here to stay and the reliance on its efficiency will increase in proportion to the threat perceptions posed by radical elements, especially of the Al Qaeda and Taliban types.
Manipur does not exactly come under the category of countries or States which are prone to terror attack, though there have been an increase in acts which border on terrorism, such as lobbing bombs at the residence of an official or a trader, kidnapping for ransom, exploding powerful bombs in crowded places etc. In fact some incidents come to mind such as the bomb blast at ISKCON in 2006 when thousands of devotees had turned up for Krishna Janma or the more recent luna fitted bomb at Ragailong, next to the police commandos quarters, that left many dead and injured. From a totally detached or objective view, Manipur aptly fits the case of a State, where necessary technologies for security reasons are important. Remember the audacity with which a car fitted with explosives was driven right past the security gate of Raj Bhawan and was found parked comfortably and abandoned later ? Or the attacks at the official residence of the Chief Minister, including the one which ironically occurred on the raising day of the State Police Department as well as the bomb lobbed at the Assembly Secretariat, some years back. We have cited some of these reasons, for we are inclined to believe that some of the instances which we have mentioned may have goaded the State Government to go in for the state of the art technology to ensure security. However one important question that lies before us is, whether the technology should over ride human expertise in fighting crime or human alertness. We can recall a number of cases, when the police was caught on the wrong foot when a bomb went off bang in the middle of a crowded road or when a woman with a child coolly walks into a shop and pumps in bullets into the heart of the proprietor and saunters away freely. The point is, going in for high tech security gadgets will be useful and helpful according to the system in which it works. What contributions can the proposed CCTVs make, if the police or the law enforcing agencies are not able to keep a tab on its functioning. There is always the prospect of any modern gadgets going the way of the CT Scan machine installed at the then JN Hospital, Porompat. To tap the benefits of technology to its optimum, it is necessary that it gells well with the system which is in place here and judging by the way in which the Lungnila Elizabeth case and the Hrinii Hubert and Muheni Martin case were handled, there is not much reason to be optimistic ? Remember how the State Police or the advisors of the Chief Minister responded when the official residence of the CM was attacked ? There are lessons to be learnt from these gags and one of this is the fact that ideas such as closing the road leading to the CM's quarters to all civilians after a deadline of say 6 pm, following an attack, can only be fodder for reducing the 12 wise men in the Cabinet into some sort of a caricature which has nothing to do with security at all.

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