The National Security Guards were the real heroes during the 26/11 attack as it was only after their entry into the scene were the terrorists neutralised. The first subject after the 26/11 operation that was discussed was broadening the NSG as it was largely believed that the future threats to India would be 26/11 styled and there is an urgent need to have more hubs in the country.
However after the great hype of making the NSG a stronger force today there appears to be a problem thanks a tussle between the Home Ministry and his cabinet colleagues over the revamp of the NSG. There are teething issues that are being found in this entire exercise and the big issue is that the expansion or the revamp of the NSG does not seem to be taking place on the scale that it should have been.
What one noticed during the 26/11 attack was that there was a delay in sending out the NSG and this was largely due to the delay in communication. The force had to be flown down from Delhi and it was alleged that there was no plane on stand by which delayed the operation further.
The government has a lot to blame for and the topic of having more hubs was a proposal made in the year 2007, exactly a year before the 26/11 attack. A blue print seeking more hubs was sent to the Home Ministry and it was shot down initially and the interest on the same topic grew only once the 26/11 attack had taken place.
J K Dutt, former Director General of the National Security Guards who led the operation on 26/11 says that the proposal to have more hubs of the NSG was sent by him in the year 2007 itself. Nothing really happened back then. In fact the then Home Secretary had also visited the NSG hub following which we had made a presentation. Nothing really happened after that.
The logic was a very simple one at that time. We did find the need to have more hubs taking into account the security of the nation. I had stated that the NSG is a quick response team and needs to reach places on very short notice. The fog in Delhi is a big issue and I had even stated that God forbid there is an incident at this time, the operations would be delayed to a large extent. Almost every flight and train is delayed due to the fog and the situation would have been no different for the NSG had it been needed to take off from Delhi for an emergency operation. However none of these even took off and only once the 26/11 attack took place did they take us seriously.
Dutt points out that the NSG should be asked to make compromises or manage with what is thrown at them. The land that is provided to them is there, but the NSG still does not have the title. It is an elite force and hence I personally feel that they should be given what they ask for.
Today there appears to be a lot of haggling when it comes to discussing the NSG. Most of the discussions have revolved round down sizing the force when it is a well known fact that this force is extremely important for the nation. There is a constant tussle on about the down sizing of the force and sources say that this has largely to do with the VVIP security aspect. Some want the VVIP security to be down sized and this is something that has becoming a debating point in the government circles as they are a few who want no change in that structure. Instead they are discussing issues such as such reducing the two special action groups attached to the smaller hubs of the NSG to one. The training too appears to have taken a beating and the rounds fired has dropped drastically from 90 rounds a week per commando to 30 a week. Further the MHA has also decided to reduce the strength of the NSG to 2500 from 5000. Ironically out of the 2500 men that they propose on having would also be in charge of the VVIP security which would mean that hardly anyone would be left in case of a major 26/11 styled attack.
Dutt is of the view that in case they are planning on downsizing the force then the aspect to be looked into is VVIP security. A sizeable number of commandoes do a VVIP duty and if this strength is reduced then correspondingly a lot of the expenditure does come down. Further another aspect that can looked into the blast investigation which is carried out by the NSG. I would think that if they decide to depend on forensics then the blast investigation wing of the NSG can be wound up. These are the areas in which the duties of the NSG could be reduced.
When hubs are created then one must understand that a minimum number of men are required to run it. There is a certain strength that we cannot do away with and most of these men have a set of specialised functions. If we get to see a reduction of forces in the NSG then we are asking for trouble.