Wake Up, Pune !
Terror attacks have become so common in this country that to identify and refer to each one of these attacks, we have started giving them numbers as if they are flights arriving at or departing from an airport -- 7/11, 26/11 and now 13/2! But this time something really different has happened. This time it has happened not in Mumbai or Delhi but in Pune, the so-called cultural and education capital of Maharashtra which is now an information technology and real estate-fuelled booming town and is still described by many as a sleepy town. And just as Mumbai's police and paramilitary were prepared to face a 26/11-like attack with commando units, ultra-modern guns and armored vehicles, the terrorists have suddenly switched to the old and 'time tested' method of simply placing an explosive in a crowded place and vanishing from there.
As soon as the confirmation about the Pune blast being a terror bombing came, news correspondents covering the Home Ministry in Dehli came on air claiming intelligence had been provided to Maharashtra government earlier about this bombing while the commissioner of police in Pune said no specific intelligence had been given by the central agencies. Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had to go in the wake of 26/11 terror attack had once said on record that the intelligence information coming from central sources are like weather forecast reports which are random and designed in such a manner that whatever actually happens the author of the report can claim "he had predicted it" !!! Showing one of the reports to the media, Deshmukh had claimed the report says "malls, multiplexes, market places, public places that have high density of crowds, railway stations and airports apart from five star hotels in city may be targeted by terrorists". Well, you don't need to be intelligent to know that terrorists will target these places, obviously they are not going to target a deserted place in a small village! So every time a terror groups seem to be a step ahead of the enforcement agencies. And there seems to be no escape from the fatal attacks for ordinary citizens like us just to be fair to the agencies one must mention here that the union home secretary has gone on record saying that after 26/11 in the last 14 months over a dozen terror attacks have been averted but the Pune attack could not be averted.
The new aspect of terror in India seems to be that now small cities and towns will be on the target. Now that police and paramilitary forces have been major upgraded in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, now the terrorists may seek softer targets, which are the small cities like Pune. Security forces have to now factor in this situation. The security in Delhi and Mumbai on roads, in terms of police patrolling is of a certain level with mobile units on roads etc but it is surely not the same in towns like Pune, Panaji (Goa), Ahemdabad or Nagpur. This will now have to change. If airports all across India have about the same level of security, why shouldn't security and police patrolling at railway stations, bus stands and market places be of the same level in all cities? In Mumbai you can see police in large numbers on roads and at public places, In Pune you see them just attending duty at the police station.. Just as an example of the difference you cant jump a traffic signal in Mumbai because you know that you will be caught the next minute, but in pune you can regularly jump signals, cut lanes, park in no-parking zones etc because the cop on duty is usually chewing tobacco sitting under some tree nearby. This will now have to change in cities like Pune, Hydrabad, Bhopal, Nagpur and dozens of other ones.
Awareness among public is also an ignored factor the simple procedure of "getting away from an unidentified bag in a public place" was forgotten by the waiter at the German Bakery, he tried to open the bag and the explosion happened..if he had just alerted everybody about the bag and vacated the place, maybe damage could have been controlled.
The worrying part is of course the message that the terrorists have given in Pune. Their arrogant statement challenging the state, the police and citizens that they can hit at will, wherever they want and we cant do much about it. The security forces, too, seem to take things very seriously only when it's an issue about VIP security. Maybe most of their resources and energy and all their top men are exhausted in VIP security itself when a VVIP from Delhi is to visit a city almost the entire city gets sanitized. A friend of mine said "If Rahul Gandhi had visited Pune instead of Mumbai last week, maybe Pune blast would not have happened"!