Delhi leaving nothing to chance

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NEW DELHI, September 28- Tens of thousands of paramilitary troops and police are deployed in India's capital carrying out armed foot patrols and manning bunkers amid a huge security operation for the Commonwealth Games.
Since the devastating Mumbai attacks of 2008, when Pakistan-based Islamist militants killed 166 people in a 60-hour assault, India has been fearful that the Commonwealth Games could be a high-profile target for attack.

With the opening ceremony looming on Sunday, 17,000 paramilitary troopers are on duty reinforcing 80,000 city police.

Even in the middle of the night, heavily armed units patrol throughout much of the city. Bunkers have sprung up on many street corners and escort vehicles race through the city with sirens blaring.

Efforts to secure the athletes’ village and venues have been hampered by last-minute construction work. A security lockdown was originally scheduled for September 3.

"We are trying to make sure that we are fully prepared to meet any eventuality," Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said after a security review on Sunday.

"The aim of the review was to ensure that the whole of Delhi is safe and not just the Games venues, which of course have received special attention."

All Games facilities are surrounded by high walls and barbed wire fences, with manned watchtowers erected over strategic locations and closed-circuit television cameras monitoring public areas.

Despite all the precautions, several athletes have pulled out citing safety concerns.

The threat of boycotts by entire teams has faded but Australia have led several countries in voicing worries about Delhi.

Fears were fanned when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired at a tourist bus, wounding two Taiwanese visitors on September 19.

"The Delhi police are trained, ready and positioned," Delhi police chief Y.S. Dadwal has said. "I am completely satisfied with the security arrangements. We have been preparing for months now."

Chietigj Bajpaee, a South Asia specialist at the London-based Control Risks consultancy, said the number of security personnel had to be matched by efficiency and professionalism across the country.

"The Games venues are less vulnerable than secondary infrastructure, such as tourist attractions, religious venues or even other cities," he said. "These targets are not as well protected as Games venues will be."

"Security concerns alone would not justify missing the Games," he added.

The chairman of the Games organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi, has consistently promised that all athletes, officials and spectators would be safe, but many in Delhi are taking no chances.

"There are 63 people with automatic weapons deployed round-the-clock here," Le Meridien hotel manager Tarun Thakral told AFP. "We are hosting the delegation from Glasgow, which will hold the next Commonwealth Games."

The Indian armed forces are not part of the basic protection of the event but are involved in patrolling national borders and air space.

On Monday helicopters carrying army commandos hovered over the athletes’ village, while the military has said it has deployed anti-aircraft weaponry including radar and missiles in and around Delhi.

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