NEW DELHI:Stung by a recent loose comment made by a top official of the Indian Coast Guard, which ran contrary to the government’s stand on the Pakistan terror boat blast and caused it great embarrassment, the Manohar Parrikar-led Ministry of Defence summoned the top brass of the Coast Guard to lecture them on how to behave in public.
On February 18, Deputy Inspector General B K Loshali was filmed at a public function bragging that it was the Coast Guard that had blown up the boat on his orders off the coast of Porbandar in Gujarat. His statement was in contradiction to the Indian government’s official stance that the ‘terror’ boat—laden with explosives —blew itself up when Indian Coast Guard tried to search it on New Year’s Eve last year.
Loshali, who was the chief guest on the occasion of the launch of Coast Guard ICGS C-421 in Surat, was posted in the Coast Guard’s Gandhinagar regional headquarters as the Chief of Staff, North West region. He was removed from the position of Chief of Staff, a day after his remarks. He is now facing a board of inquiry, which will eventually lead to his court martial. Red-faced over the behavior of a senior ranked officer, the government decided to give the force lectures to hone their communications skills and public behavior while handling “critical issues”.
Subsequently, on May 20 and 21, the Coast Guard organised a two-day workshop on public speaking at the Indian Coast Guard headquarters in the Capital. For this purpose, Chiefs of Staff of all five regions—Gandhinagar, Mumbai, Chennai, Port Blair and Kolkata—were directed to attend it along with other key officials of the Coast Guard.
For the purpose, besides top officials from the defence ministry, speakers from a Delhi-based FORE School of Management were called to share their experiences. A senior Coast Guard official, who attended the workshop, said they were taught to do their homework properly before commenting on a critical issue.
Loshali’s comment was later contradicted by the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard ship, Rajratan, which followed the terror boat, saying he had not received any orders from Loshani to blow the Pakistani boat. And the defence ministry had to release the video footage as evidence to support its claim.
“Porbandar operation was a big achievement for the Indian Coast Guard, which later turned out to be an embarrassment for the government due to a loose comment by a very senior ranked officer. The idea to conduct such a workshop was to teach them how and what to say on such critical issues,” a senior officer told The Sunday Standard.
The Coast Guard has never before organized such a workshop for senior officers. Another officer said since many officers were dealing with operation issues in their previous postings and had no experience of interacting with the public and even the media, such workshops would be beneficial for them. “They were taught to do their home work properly before speaking out, even if it was not a media event,” an officer added.
Loshali is facing a board of inquiry for his behaviour, despite having apologised to the defence minister in reply to his show-cause notice.