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Guarding the Coastline

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Ten years after the 26/11 attacks, one would have expected the Maharashtra government to beef up coastal vigilance. But state officials recently informed the Bombay High Court that they were still working on “interim measures”

By Neeta Kolhatkar in Mumbai

 


While hearing a PIL filed by the NGO Janhit Manch on  June 17, the division bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justices Abhay Oka and AA Sayed pulled up the Maharashtra government for failure to implement steps suggested in March this year by a government committee formed on beach security. The public prosecutor, Abhinandan Vaigyani, informed the court that the state has begun to take “interim measures” at which point the miffed bench questioned the state’s attitude.

“Since the time the Government Resolution (on beach security) was issued in September 2006, do you have an account of the number accidents that have taken place? Ten years have gone by since the GR was issued and all that you are telling us are the interim measures the state government has initiated?” the bench said. Ironically, the court hearing came on the day after the second state meet on coastal security. 

At the meet, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis apprised Government of India representatives of steps taken to enhance coastal vigilance. The CM also suggested all landing points and non-major ports be brought under e-surveillance. A force for marine policing would be created, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh said. The first meet on coastal security was held on March 3, 2016, and a committee formed under the chief secretary.

Justice Oka noted in the high court direction: “The very filing of this PIL by Janhit Manch was due to the failure of the government to implement the GR of 2006. Now we note that there is failure to implement the recommendations made by the meeting convened by the chief secretary.” 

Maharashtra has a lengthy coastline with 72 beaches. Till now the state government has only hired volunteers at a few beaches. This, despite the GR which specified that permanent lifeguards, boats and other measures should be put in place at beaches considered dangerous and vigilance stepped up along the coast. The bench, in fact, noted that the state has dumped this responsibility on municipal corporations. It has asked the state government to submit a compliance report by July 31 and asked the petitioner to suggest names of experts for suggestions.

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