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CAG Report Exposes Gaping Holes in Coast Guard’s Operations and Maritime Preparedness

The Indian Coast Guard has come under severe criticism with the release of the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). As per the report, the Coast Guard has shown lack of preparedness in the light of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, besides being plagued by other factors such as faulty acquisition and bloated expenditures. The CAG report is the first report to come after 26/11 Mumbai attacks and has severely criticized the Coast Guard.
 
The CAG report has stated that besides various shortcomings related to acquisitions and expenditure, the lackadaisical approach of the Coast Guard has led to the Mumbai terror attack becoming possible. The CAG report says that in respect to Maharashtra and Gujarat for the period leading to 26/11, the Coast Guard did not conduct a single boarding operation on any suspicious vessels that they spotted on the high seas before the attack took place. Moreover, the Coast Guard even tried to mislead the auditors by fudging their official reports. The CAG figured out that the Coast Guard tried to project more boarding operations when, in reality, it did not do any in the days preceding the attack.  In fact, the Coast Guard vessels on patrol duty did not undertake the prescribed boarding operations per quarter for identification and investigation of fishing boats/ships.
 
Besides being a shoddy maritime force which actually lied to the auditors to hide its shortcomings related to the 26/11 terror attacks, the Indian Coast Guard is plagued by a host of other discrepancies. The CAG report notes that since the 26/11 attacks, out of the 14 new stations sanctioned by government, only five are operational. The report said almost 50 per cent of the Coast Guard's offshore patrol vessels and 72 per cent of fast patrol craft need to be decommissioned. Even the newly inducted vessels lack critical equipment including guns and identification radar. The new vessels are not fully operational because of lack of crucial equipment such as super rapid gun mount, CRN 91 guns and identification of friend or foe system.
 
The CAG report also observed that the Coast Guard's 15 year perspective plans extending to 2017 and 2022 remain unapproved by the government. The CAG has also dismissed the plans since they are unachievable and pointed out that the procurement is running well behind schedule. The Coast Guard is not able to spend money allocated to it in successive budgets, which resulted in the Defence Ministry curtailing financial outlays, said the report. The CAG notes that coastal stations do not have their own assets and are using hired vessels. In fact, they are forced to operate out of temporary structures as the land is not owned by them. At least 16 coast guard stations didn't have basic facilities like jetties for berthing ships and fuelling facilities.
 
The CAG report says that Coast Guard was deficient in its force levels by 37 per cent in December 2010, a full two years after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes. The Coast Guard has only 79 surface platforms - such as offshore patrol vessels and interceptor craft - compared to 122 envisaged for the maritime security force.  Its air wing's force level is still worse than its patrol vessel fleet. The Coast Guard air wing has, as of December 2010, got only 46 aircraft, helicopters and aerostat radars, instead of 95 platforms that were envisaged.
 
The CAG has recommended that the government should come up with a 15-year-perspective plan for the Coast guard and ensure that its fleet was augmented. There is a dire need for the Coast Guard to evolve norms for patrolling in maritime, coastal zones, based on available resources, the CAG report indicated.

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