Sunday, November 30, 2008

The terrorists are dead, let the blame games begin

Now that operations against the terrorists who held Mumbai hostage for 60 hours is over, the spin masters are out in full force. If only they realised that the people are beyond spin, it would also help if the spin was not as comical. Exihbit A Maharastra Home Minister RR Patil's claim that the terrorists were out to kill 5000. Now by all accounts the terrorists dead or captured number 10-12. Do you think theor handlers expected them to have the success they had? Or to humor the good minister, were they expected to kill 5000, even by those who sent them?
There are also noises of how the terrorists were trained for atleast 2-3 years. This should explain how they manage to best the security establishment. Only problem is the interrogation of the captutured terrorist has revealed , that the training period was far shorter than that(closer to 2-3 months)
I also read the minister saying that the cops reached CST within 7 minutes of the shooting there. Now tha actually brings into question why there were'nt cops with guns there in the first place. Thats like saying the cops got to Penn station 7mins after shooting started there.
I know for a fact that CST has a police post. So where were the cops? Were they neutralized by the terrorists before they went on their rampage?
We will mourn the loss of the 14 cops from the Mumbai police who lost their lives. But we also would like to know why they died. Preferrably with no spin.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mumbai Massacre , an analysis too soon

The massacre , thats what the attack in Mumbai is being called.  An apt definition, considering the defenceless of a city of 20 million people in the face of what appears to heavily armed well trained madmen, who numbered approximately 12.
There will be statesmanly like calls saying "This is not the time to point fingers" , "Its time for us to stand united".  You can't argue with that kind of sound logic. But I can, and I must.
Candle lit vigils are not going to stop the people who perperated the mayhem in Mumbai.
Mumbai has been hit by terrorists more often than most cities, starting 1993.
One would imagine that its police would have evolved to handle terrorist threats by now.
Whenever an incident such as this happens, the first to be blamed is "intelligence failure".
All manner of sins are swept under the same rug.
Intelligence failure or no intelligence failure, it was a general policing failure.
Exhibit A.:2 Heavily armed men enter the biggest commuter railway station in Mumbai, start shooting up the place. But no cop in the vicinity are able to get a shot off.
Exhibit B:The terrorists hijack a police van no less , and proceed to shoot at bystanders. This goes on for atleast a matter of hours. 
Exhibit C: Heavily armed men attack the Taj and the Oberoi, and enter the hotels unchallenged.

I am willing to accept that the attack , its scale and planning were unprecedented.
What I am not willing to accept , is that the terrorists proceeded unchallenged.
I am willing to accept that putting an operation together to take out well entrenched terrorists takes time.
What I cannot accept is that NSG commandos had to be flown in from Delhi.
There should be a permanent detachment of commandos in Mumbai.
There is no good time or bad time to accept ones short comings. The only way we can prevent or atleast have a chance to prevent another embarrassing and emasculating attack, is to learn from our mistakes and work towards correcting them.
As a force the mumbai police force has been stretched to the breaking point. 
The force is not equipped or trained to tackle terrorist threats of this magnitude.
Raising an ATS is not enough, since an acronym is not enough to stop bad men in their tracks.
Mumbai needs to raise/maintain a commando team for any such operations. Training for such eventualities is a full time occupation, not a course you take once in your 20 year career.
You need both the investigators as well as the whip hand.
Hemant Karkare the chief of the ATS, was a fine police officer by all accounts, but he was not the whip hand I am talking about.
Finally the backbone of the force, the lower rung, needs to be trained and equipped with handguns. A lot of the force, patrols the streets unarmed, that has to change.  
A similar incident in New York city would be unfathomable, since every cop has a gun and knows how to use it.  
Finally its easier to say all these things and do them. But do them we must. As a people we have a right to life, and if history has taught us anything, we have to stand up and be counted.  Ironically as the whole world celebrated the end of George Bush's reign and he beginning of Obama's I can't help but wonder , if India would have been better of with a little more of Bush's single minded arrogance than the Mr Nice Guy image we have worked so hard to cultivate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Electoral College reform

The debate about electoral college reform has never really gotten off the ground. Sure there was outrage when Al Gore lost the Presidency even though he won the popular vote. But that quickly dissipated, and the John Kerry debacle four years later meant that George Bush won another election but this time with a lead of some 3 million votes.
And thats how its usually going to be the guy who wins the Electoral College, likely gets the popular vote, so why bother changing it?
The one reasoning I have heard in the past for having an electoral college is that the smaller states(population wise) would not get the short shrift from the Presidential candiadates.
And its a reason I'd be willing to accept if it was not for the fact that even larger states get the short shrift currently from one candidate or the other or sometimes from both.
I have'nt gotten figures, but it would be safe to say That States like Texas, New York and California, did not get the attention that was heaped on Swing States, from eithe candidates. If you were Obama, why waste precious resources on a states thats already been sewn up. And if you were McCain, why waste prescious resources on a state that you did'nt have a prayer of winning.
The winner takes all approach is responsible for this state of affairs.
What it has done effectively is render republican votes useless in a state like California, that almost always goes Democrat, and a similar story unfolds in Republican states. From media reports it would seem that a record voters came out for the first time to cast their votes. Part of this is due to Obama's magnetic appeal, part of it a desire for change. But surely one has to ask the question, how many of these people did not vote in past elections , since they believed(quite rightly) that their vote would not affect the final outcome.
If I have made the nature of the problem apparent, Id like to suggest a potential solution.
There are currently 2 states which allow their electoral colleges votes to be divided proportionally between the candidates. Extend this to all the 50 states.
What are the chances, that McCain would have taken his message to California if he knew that he had a shot to pick up 20-25 electoral college votes there or that Obama would have made his views known in the Republican South?
My guess , pretty good.
As Obama rightly pointed out , he was elected to be President of all Americans. So next time , let a few more American's have a genuine say.