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Terror Strikes
Cabinet accepts Patil proposals
Panel to decide on tougher laws likely
Anita Katyal and Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 17
The Union Cabinet, which met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence here today, failed to come up with any concrete proposal to counter growing terrorism in the country.

The over three-hour special Cabinet meeting held in the backdrop of serial bomb blasts in the national Capital on September 14, concluded a little after 11 pm at the Prime Minister’s residence 7, Race Course Road. At the meeting “Home Minister Shivraj Patil suggested some measures, which the Cabinet promptly approved,” said Union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee while leaving the venue.

He refused to elaborate what these measures were. But sources said Patil, under fire for his rather passive role, simply repeated his oft-stated suggestions of adding to the police force in the states, having more research and development laboratories in the country, more closed circuit TVs at vantage points and greater coordination between Central and state intelligence agencies. Contrary to speculations that the government was examining enforcing some new set of stringent laws to curb terror, none of that came up at the meeting, sources said.

Just a day earlier, Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) chairman Veerappa Moily had come up with a report suggesting the enforcement of the National Security Act (NSA), which could put any terror suspect in detention up to a maximum of one year.

Sources in the PMO said though no one raised this issue in this special Cabinet meet, the government was considering setting up a committee to study this aspect of the ARC recommendations.

It was left to steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan to demand why the government had failed so far in enforcing a ban on the Bajrang Dal and he also suggested a fair and credible agency that should be able to transparently examine the ban on different organisations and the reasons behind such bans. Paswan apart from railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had criticised the ban on SIMI.

Similarly, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar reminded the home minister of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP’s repeated demand to secure Presidential ascent for GUJCOCA.

Patil said unlike MOCOCA of Maharashtra, GUJCOCA was even more draconian than POTA.

Apart from the home minister, who spoke at length at the meeting, national security adviser M.K. Narayanan also briefed the members of the Union Cabinet on the current situation with regard to terrorism in the country.

Incidentally, this meeting was necessitated by the insistence of Lalu Prasad Yadav that the government needed to show some initiative on the whole question. But he was not present at today’s meeting. Sources said he was stuck with flood work in Purnia and could not make it. His political lieutenant and trusted man rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh was present at the meeting.

Earlier in the evening, Sonia Gandhi met the PM, setting at rest speculation that Patil may be replaced.



PM: Big gaps in intelligence
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 17
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that a central agency to assist the states in investigating terror acts was on the cards while a tougher legislation to further strengthen the substantive anti-terrorism law was being considered. The new law will have the requisite safeguards to prevent its misuse, unlike POTA or TADA.

The PM did not mince words as he spoke at the Governors’conference. He acknowledged that the recent terror strikes in various cities showed "vast gaps in intelligence that need to be overcome".

The PM asked the governors to give suggestions for devising a more effective counter-terrorism strategy. Some of the governors have held top posts in the government, the police and the security establishment.

On the much talked about central agency, the Prime Minister said, “This need not necessarily be a federal investigative agency, but it could be a central agency which can assist the states in investigation whenever a major terrorist event takes place. As this central agency would have investigated other similar terrorist crimes in the country, it would have a greater level of expertise with regard to the investigation and prosecution of such terrorist offences.”

Another suggestion that has been made is about establishing a central agency to co-ordinate the counter-terrorism strategy. There are already a number of central agencies who are involved in determining counter-terrorism strategy, based on extant situations. Perhaps there is no need to set up a new agency for this, said the PM. Rather better coordination and integration among the existing agencies was required.

Greater emphasis will have to be paid to intelligence--both by the Central Intelligence Bureau and the intelligence agencies in the states. There is no question of the government being soft on terrorism, the PM said and regretted that the public debate on terrorism had tended to be driven by politics and centred on certain laws enacted or repealed by different governments.

Our government has no fixed, inflexible or ideological view in this regard, he said.

Within the government and the ruling Congress, there have been mixed voices with one section favouring a tougher law, while some others felt the existing laws were strong enough to combat the menace.

The PM said it was a matter of serious concern that dissent and agitations, over any kind of issues, had been increasingly finding expression in mindless destruction of public property, attacks on police posts, and other government establishments.

“I am constrained, and feel sad, to observe that all this is not in the national interest and will hurt our progress. In colonial times, public property was a symbol of colonial power. Today it belongs to the tax-payer, who in a state of motivated frenzy, egged on by partisan interests, seek to destroy it,” the PM said.



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