KOCHI: The long coastline in the district has been on high alert for the past 72 hours following intelligence input that some Sri Lankan nationals will try to start their voyage to Pakistan from one of the harbours in Ernakulam and Alappuzha. The alert comes days after the police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) carried out a security audit at harbours in the district and identified several vulnerabilities.
It was on Saturday that a specific intelligence alert was issued by the IB that around 13 Sri Lankan nationals will arrive in Ernakulam and Alappuzha coastal belt for travelling to Pakistan. Since then, the police force has been on high alert to prevent any movement of foreign nationals from the coastal belt.
“We have enhanced intelligence gathering through the fishermen community about the presence of any Sri Lankan nationals. We are also monitoring isolated places and buildings along the coast. Besides, fishermen who venture into the sea for fishing are being monitored. We are also collecting information about fishermen returning in fishing boats. The patrolling activities along the coast have been enhanced,” Fort Kochi coastal police Circle Inspector Sangeeth Job said.
It will not be an easy task to identify Sri Lankan nationals as a number of fishing boat workers are from Tamil Nadu. Similarly, several boats from Tamil Nadu dock at harbours in the district. “We are collecting information from shops in coastal areas about people who had not been seen at these places before. We have also asked owners of lodges to share information about people occupying rooms daily. Fishermen who are part of our intelligence network are on alert about the presence of suspicious vessels in the sea,” he said.
Ernakulam Rural police chief K Karthick said all required precautions have been taken. “The entire security system is on high alert. Checking has been intensified. We have also briefed the fishermen community about the matter,” he said. Munambam harbour had witnessed several instances of Sri Lankan nationals hiring fishing vessels to escape to other countries.
The Tamil Nadu police had arrested a Sri Lankan national from Angamaly who was a dealer in drugs smuggled in from Pakistan and Iran in July this year. The coastline in Ernakulam stretches from Chellanam to Munambam.
The coastal police have divided these areas into 32 beats and a policeman is assigned to monitor his/her respective area daily. Besides, officials from local police stations are also tasked with collecting information and patrolling their areas. The marine enforcement wing under the fisheries department has been coordinating with fishermen to collect information in this regard.
The IB and coastal police had recently conducted a security auditing of harbours in the district. “Several security vulnerabilities could be identified. A report in this regard has been given to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the state government,” an IB official said.
Vulnerabilities identified & steps proposed
Two watchtowers should be installed at Kochi and Munambam harbours
Only one gate for people to enter and exit each harbour. All other entry and exit points should be closed
Round-the-clock close surveillance by police and fisheries authorities of harbours necessary
Records of people arriving and exiting the harbour must be kept
Advanced telecommunication system should be used in boats so that fishermen can alert any suspicious activities in the outer sea
CCTV cameras must be installed at all big and small harbours in the district