Director General Rajendra Singh, PTM, TM, DGICG in an interview with Editor-in-Chief, Mr Hasibur Rahman about Achievements, Modernisation and Development of the Indian Coast Guard.
Sir, you have completed about two years as DGICG and have seen growth of service from humble beginning in 1978 to the present state. What is the present force level and how you perceive Coast Guard growth in next few years?
It is indeed an honour for me to be at the helm of this dynamic maritime service. As the Coast Guard marches into 41st year of glorious service to the nation, I look back and see that over the years the service has grown from strength to strength and has emerged as one of the finest maritime force in the world. The force levels of ICG today stand tall at 134 surface platforms and 62 aircraft. Further, ICG has also established phase I of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) at 46 sites along the coast to augment close coast surveillance capabilities which is a force multiplier. In addition, static radars are also being established at another 38 sites as part of the Phase II of the CSN project. With the planned modernisation and expansion of the service, a Coast Guard fleet of about 190 ships/boats and 100 aircraft is envisaged by 2022-23.
What are the maritime security challenges being encountered by the Coast Guard in the present scenario and what steps have been taken to address them?
The biggest challenge on the operational front is sustained surveillance of the vast maritime zone of about two million sq kms and a long coastline, which extends to over 7,500 kms. However, in the present scenario there is close coordination with various central and state agencies which has led to enhanced intensity of operations. These include the promulgation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), joint Coastal Security Exercises, formation of Coordination Committees at the state and district levels under the civilian administration and establishment of Joint Operations Centres (JOCs) at Mumbai. Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair.
The length, topography and nature of the Indian coastline make coastal security an extremely challenging task. It demands a coordinated approach involving many central and state agencies. The Coast Guard along with other important stakeholders like Indian Navy and Marine Police are continuously striving to achieve seamless cohesion and flow of information towards ensuring a robust coastal security mechanism.
On the manpower front, ICG is gradually mitigating the shortages of officers and men through enhanced rate of recruitment so as to perform CG mandate effectively and efficiently.
Coastal security has taken a center stage post 26/11. What are the significant measures taken to enhance coastal security?
The joint efforts of the various stakeholders viz. IN, ICG, Coastal police and various state authorities have positively contributed towards strengthening the coastal security apparatus. Significant among the measures undertaken by the GoI and ICG for enhanced security mechanism against sea borne threats include:-
• The induction process for new ships and aircraft has been quite rapid, resulting in increase in strength of ships/IBs from 61 in 2009 to 134 and aircraft from 46 in 2009 to 62 till date.
• Sustained deployment of 30-35 ICG ships per day at sea.
• 169 exercises and 301 Coastal Security operations conducted since Jan 2009.
• On an average 8-10 aircraft are deployed daily for maritime aerial surveillance.
• Number of boarding operations done annually have increased manifold. Since year 2009, 1,56,974 boarding operations have been undertaken.
• SOPs for Coastal Security in all coastal States/UTs have been promulgated for coordination between all stake holders.
It is noteworthy that the concern for coastal security has seen the security agencies and intelligence agencies coordinating their operations in the "Hub and Spoke" concept to safeguard national interest for ensuring effectiveness of the coastal security mechanism. In addition, the ICG is also undertaking training of marine police and assisting them in establishing the marine police organisation.
Further, Coastal Surveillance Network is being actively utilized for real time monitoring of the targets/tracks picked up by the sensors in the coastal areas. The threats identified are being examined by the ICG ships/ aircraft operating in the area for physical verification. The input is also shared with other stakeholders for positively addressing it. The lessons learnt are discussed at appropriate levels and initiated so as to overcome them.
The fishing community and other people engaged in maritime activities could potentially be used as 'eyes' and 'ears' of the Indian maritime forces. What measures have been taken to harness this valuable asset and what mechanism is in place to provide urgent assistance to Indian fishermen in distress?
ICG has been organizing Community Interaction Programmes (CIP) for the fishermen to spread awareness amongst the fisher folk for strengthening costal security mechanism. Since 2009, a total of 6077 Community Interaction Programmes have been conducted. The fishermen are also appraised about the need to alert security agencies regarding any suspicious/foreign boats sighted by them at sea.
Further, assistance to fishermen is one of the primary charters of ICG. Towards this, Maritime Rescue Centers (MRCC) at Mumbai, Chennai & Port Blair are manned 24X7 to respond to any incident/accident at sea not only for fishing boats but also for the shipping traffic traversing in the Indian Search & Rescue Region (ISSR). A toll free help line number 1554 has also been established. As a goodwill gesture, ICG has distributed 1778 distress alert transmitters free of cost to fishermen.
What is the manpower strength, how much is women officers' intake and their employability in the ICG?
ICG has a manpower strength of 1,812 Officers, 10,030 Enrolled Personnel and 1,296 Civilian Personnel (including on deputation). At present 133 women officers are borne in ICG which is about 8 percent of our officer strength. These women officers, are employed as pilots, observers and law officers and the majority of them are in General Duty branch posted in various operational and administrative billets. In addition, in a major step towards women empowerment and giving a greater operational role to women officers besides flying duties in ICG, women officers are being trained as ACV operators since 2016 and appointed onboard Hovercraft.
Could you kindly educate how the Subordinate Officers have been integrated in decision making in the ICG?
With an aim to empower the Subordinate Officers (JCO level) and to promote inclusiveness in decision making, the office of the Pradhan Adhikari was established at the Coast Guard Headquarters. This was also in consonance with the Hon'ble Prime Minister's vision of adoption of a collaborative approach towards decision making in the Govt. departments. Subsequently, the senior most Subordinate Officer was appointed as Pradhan Adhikari of the Coast Guard to act as link between DG and the men. The aim is to collaborate the idea, address the issues of the men in a time bound manner. In continuation with the endeavour of empowering the men, a conclave of the subordinate officers' is organized annually at the Headquarters.
The conclave was first of its kind wherein the ideas, thought process and delivery of the presentation was done by the SOs. The conduct of the event not only broadened the horizon of the middle level management of the service but also boosted their confidence through interaction and presentation.
What steps has the ICG taken towards International Cooperation?
An important initiative and thrust area of ICG has been towards building bridges of maritime cooperation with the littoral states of IOR. In keeping with the aspect of the IMO SAR Convention of 1979 and IMO OPRC Convention 1990, ICG has taken initiatives to develop working level/ professional relationships and meaningful regional cooperation with friendly neighbours/ maritime states. The ICG has accordingly extended Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with maritime agencies/ Coast Guards of several littoral countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Oman, Pakistan and Bangladesh for effective mutual cooperation. Besides, ICG ships have visited about 18 countries on Goodwill visit. One Dhruv (ALH) helicopter is currently positioned at Gan (Maldives) for undertaking medical /casualty evacuation operations and SAR commitments. ICG ships regularly deploy for patrol of Maldives EEZ.
ICG has been very proactively involved in "Swacchh Bharat Abhiyan" and Coastal cleanup efforts. Please provide some insight for benefit of our readers.
The GoI campaign of "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" is a required step towards ensuring a cleaner environment for our next generation. ICG along with all stakeholders like Ports, Coastal Population, Shipping and Oil Agencies, is making its own sincere contribution to this noble cause by extending it to maritime and Coastal domain through 'Swachh Sagar Abhiyan' and instituted an award for clean and green Port under the aegis of NOSDCP. These initiatives of the ICG include coastal cleanup campaigns, community awareness drives, tree plantation drives etc. At the same time, ICG equally understands that this goal of "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" can be achieved through 'Swachhta Hi Seva' and collective responsibility and initiatives of all stakeholders, and is earnestly participating in this noble initiative. In a three pronged approach, the cleanliness drive has been extended to beaches, community areas adjoining ICG premises and even to creating awareness amongst children studying in Coast Guard Schools.
ICG has planted more than 42000 saplings in the year 2017. Last year ICG personnel with the support of Municipal Corporation of Delhi had undertaken a massive cleanup drive after the festive occasion of 'Ganesh Utsav' and 'Durga Pooja'. It is the endeavor of the Coast Guard fraternity to further extend this noble cause.
DG Rajendra Singh ji, many thanks for sparing your precious time and speaking to us. We appreciate your gesture and compliment you on your achievements. Your views would be shared at large through the Sainik Samachar.