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Goa’s Soft Targets

Hotels, malls, multiplexes and casinos are highly vulnerable

In the wake of terror attacks in Sri Lanka the Goa police have urged hoteliers, malls and other businesses to strengthen their security. These businesses have taken security very casually so far. Frisking and checking of bags are done at their premises perfunctorily by their security staff. It is very easy for dangerous elements to get past them. Their security staff are but untrained village boys from poor states who are here to earn a living standing at a place in an uniform. They would not take the risk of confronting anyone if that person argues his or her way out with some dangerous materials. The hotels, malls and other businesses which can be terrorists’ soft targets must be made to deploy properly trained security personnel and keep them on alert about suspicious bags and suspicious elements. They have to do security audits, threat and consequence analyses and vulnerability and risk assessments at regular intervals. Terrorists have been known to study weaknesses in the security systems of soft targets and plan their attacks accordingly.

The focus of the government should be to ensure that security of people is not compromised anywhere any time. The government must not take threat warning and perceptions lightly as was the case with Intelligence inputs in Sri Lanka. Had the Sri Lankan security forces acted on the inputs from India and their own Intelligence agencies the attacks on churches and hotels could have been prevented and hundreds of lives could have been saved. At the same time the government has to be cautious about rumours. In the aftermath of terror attacks in Sri Lanka, rumour-mongering and unscrupulous elements have been sending security forces on wild goose hunts. Information provided by citizens should never be dismissed without verification, but the government must discriminate between substance and frivolity. In the first instance, if the government has a good Intelligence system that exchanges inputs with friendly countries, they should rely on their inputs rather than on anyone else’s.

It is a pity that the security system that was set up after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai across the country has become weak and loose across the country. In Goa it has been reduced to almost nil in most of the places. Security personnel at potentially soft targets like hotels and malls in the state have been doing their jobs casually. It is only after the terror attacks in Sri Lanka that the state police have woken up to look at the security systems at these places. Let us hope they sustain their vigilance and improve the police security as well as force these businesses to enhance their security systems. They must make these businesses set up security systems that operate in sync with the security objectives of the police. There should be regular meetings between the police and the corporate and security heads of the businesses. There should be regular security audits at these businesses.

Though strong security is a must to pre-empt attacks, deceptions and criminal activities in the premises, hotels, malls and such business have paid little attention to it. For better security management, installation of CCTV cameras and other security gadgets should be made compulsory as they can be primary detectors for any criminal and terrorist intentions. The state police must conduct periodical inspections of the security systems at the potential soft targets to ensure that they are fully functional and work round the clock. Goa is a major tourist destination and has a large number of hotels, casinos, night clubs, shopping malls, multiplexes and restaurants where a number of people gather for staying, entertainment and eating. There are whole streets filled with tourists in the beach towns. Then there are large numbers of places of worship. All of these are vulnerable. The primary duty for protecting the lives of the people visiting these places is of the state. However, the police cannot do it unless the hotels, casinos, night clubs, shopping malls, multiplexes and restaurants establish strong and vigilant security systems at their own premises.

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