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Monday, December 19, 2011

Mumbai police checks security preparedness Top city schools flunk terror test

While Dhirubhai Ambani school got an 'average' rating, Podar's security was found to be the 'worst'

Some of the city's top schools have failed to clear an anti-terror preparedness test conducted by the Mumbai police, triggering fears they could be vulnerable to a suicide bombing or a 26/11-like attack. 

    The test, a questionnaire about the schools' security apparatus followed by an inspection, was carried out following an intelligence input about the possibility of terrorists targeting elite schools. 
    While schools such as Cathedral and John Cannon School, Campion School and St Mary's School in south Mumbai
were rated the safest in this audit, Dhirubhai Ambani International School (DAIS) and Podar International School were rated 'average' and 'worst' respectively. 
    According to sources in Mumbai Police's Protection and Security Department, which conducted this drive, the decision to do a security audit of schools was 
taken right after the Cricket World Cup when Commissioner Arup Patnaik stressed on improving security at all vital installations. 
    Both DAIS and Podar, sources said, have not responded to several reminders from the police about the security measures necessary at the institutions. 
    "There were alerts that terrorists could target some of the city's schools where kids of VVIPs study. We started a drive to identify schools where children of corporate head honchos, politicians, Bollywood superstars and top police officers study. We also included schools that were near other vital installations. In all, we found 25 schools that needed our attention," said an officer from the department. 
    Around the same time, the Ministry of Home Affairs had also issued security guidelines for schools and this was made the yardstick on 
which the schools' safety was measured. The guidelines say that every school must have a high perimeter wall with fencing and should keep only one gate open for entry and exit for both vehicles and people. 
    The guidelines also says that every school should have a security officer, like there are in hotels, in-charge of overall security. The school should have a network of CCTVs with a control room where every activity in the school should be monitored constantly. Frisking of every person entering the premises was also recommended among other measures. 
    Around four months ago, the Protection and Security Department began sending letters to all the 25 schools asking them to furnish details on their security set up. At the same time, the department started an informal audit of the security measures followed by these schools. 
    "Very few schools replied to our first letters and we had to send two to three reminders to elicit any response. 
After four months, we have received replies from 15 schools, while 10 schools have completely ignored our repeated reminders," said another officer involved with the drive. 
    Of all the schools that replied, sources said, Cathedral and John Cannon School, St Mary's School at Mazgaon and Campion School were found to have adhered to almost all security measures. "Cathedral and St Mary's even have a security officer, a rarity in other schools," said the offi
cer. Other schools that replied included Army School at Colaba, Arya Vidya Mandir School at Bandra and Juhu, Bombay Scottish School at Mahim, GD Somani Memorial School at Cuffe Parade and American School at BKC. "We were pretty satisfied with the security at these schools," said the officer. 
    Among those who did not cooperate with the police were Podar Education Complex that includes RN Podar School and Podar International School at Santa Cruz; Dhirubhai Ambani International School at BKC, Don Bosco School; and Gopi Birla School at Walkeshwar. 
    A spokesperson for Dhirubhai Ambani, said that they had always accorded high priority to matters concerning safety and security arrangements. "We have always extended full cooperation with the State and city authorities on various aspects and are committed to offering the best security for the school and its premises." 
    An informal audit at these schools 
revealed that while the Don Bosco schools did well and Gopi Birla and DAIS fared average, Podar School was the worst. "It is like a ticking bomb. Hardly any security measures are in place at this institution. They have not even bothered to reply to our suggestions," said the officer. 
    Anvita Bir, the principal of Podar school, meanwhile, said that she wasn't aware of any letter or police inspection. "Only our security staff will be able to answer these questions," she said. Bir, however, said she couldn't put Mumbai Mirror in touch with the security staff as she was out of town. 
    Additional CP (protection and security) Madhukar Pande, when asked about the drive, said: "We will follow this drive with a formal physical verification of all schools. We are also planning to write to the Education Department to take action against the schools that are not cooperating with us. Schools must understand that whatever we are doing is for their good."

Twenty-five top schools in the city — including Dhirubhai Ambani and Podar — need to upgrade their security measures, police have said

Cops rated the security at Cathedral among the best


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