The Navy launched a unique coastal security exercise, Matla Abhiyan, from Kolkata on Wednesday.
In the morning, Commodore Suprobho K De, naval officer-in-charge, West Bengal, flagged off the two naval boats that will move along the river Matla in the Sunderbans up to Hemnagar, where a customs checkpost exists. This is also the international trade protocol route between India and Bangladesh. The Navy has always been apprehensive of barges moving nearly unchecked along this route where contraband as well as men and deadly equipment can be dropped off easily.
The Sunderbans, given its vastness and complexities, has been a matter of concern for security agencies for a long time. Movement of barges and other vessels along the protocol route has added to their worries. An expert boatman can move away from his given course and stop at any of the numerous villages dotting the landscape to drop off men and equipment.
The boats that started from here at 6am will spend the night at Namkhana before proceeding to Hemnagar. They will return to Kolkata on Sunday. The purpose is to interact with the local community, spread awareness on coastal security and understand the navigational complexities in the Sunderbans Delta. Once a proper route is charted, it will allow the Navy to carry out patrols of its own if some input comes in. Security in the Sunderbans is otherwise the responsibility of BSF. For passage through the Sunderbans, the naval boats will sail alongside the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) launch Meghna. IWAI vessels and crew have experience in navigating the waters of the Sunderbans.
“The assistance provided by IWAI shows the strong inter-agency coordination between all stakeholders of coastal security. There is another purpose for charting a course through the Sunderbans for our smaller vessels. We have planned a special event to commemorate 50 years of the 1971 Indo-Pak War in 2021. We plan to use our smaller craft to cross the Sunderbans and reach Mongla port in Bangladesh. Each boat will carry veterans who participated in the War that saw the birth of Bangladesh. For now, we are charting the waters up to Hemnagar. Later, we shall go up to Mongla Port,” Commodore De said.
During the exercise, the naval staff will also interact with personnel of the coastal police stations at Maipit, Jharkhali, Hemnagar and Gobindgarpur. At Hemnagar, the naval crew will visit schools and interact with customs officials.
Source: Times of India