Background

India, world’s largest democracy is a pluralistic nation of 1.3 billion people with diverse religions, cultures, languages and sports. It is a vibrant democracy with intense political activities. It’s urban and even rural areas are densely populated. A large number of cultural, religious, political and sporting events occur frequently throughout the year. The congregations at these events vary anywhere between a hundred thousand to a few million people. Since its independence in 1947, India is beset with a host of internal security challenges spread all most all over the vast nation in the form of militancy in the States of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, lingering insurgencies in the Northeast, Maoists violence in the so called ‘Red Corridor, and a number of home grown and foreign aided terrorist organisations. These hostile elements obtain information through the internet and other sources on making and using of crude Chemical, Biological and Radiological weapons to cause large scale human casualties. They could even obtain, without much difficulty, CBRN Material from India’s loosely regulated and secured large chemical industry, several biological and bio-tech laboratories and a host of institutions using radiological material in the equipment meant for medical diagnostics and industrial radiography. Therefore, a grave threat of the use of CBRN material by these hostile elements exists and big religious, cultural, political and sporting events would obviously be the attractive targets.

Threat Assessment

The biggest threat to big events in India is assessed to be the use of biological agents by releasing disease causing pathogens in to the atmosphere, water bodies, food and drinking water, even though the effects of such an attack would only be evident much after the occurrence of the event. Major segment of the people attending these big events are of floating nature, there by greatly increasing risk of disease getting communicated to the much larger population which do not attend the event. The most possible threat assessed to be is the release of toxic chemical agents in to enclosed spaces of sports stadia, cultural concert halls and even jam packed open arenas. The outcome in such a case would be instantaneous, very lethal and create great panic resulting in stampedes and consequent casualties. The impact of such attacks would be very high on the morale of the population and also the disaster responders. A relatively easy but very effective threat with both immediate and long term effects would be the use of Radiological Dispersal Devices or Radiation

Emission Devices placed at multiple locations within the place of the big event. These radiological devices release harmful radiations thereby contaminating the place, the people and the environment around causing severe health problems to the exposed and requiring huge cleanup efforts of these contaminated places.

The Vulnerabilities

Large events with huge congregations especially the religious events are most vulnerable to the CBRN threats. Lack of awareness on the effects of use of CBRN material on part of the participating crowds leads to panic situations and hinder rescue and relief operations. Lack of adequate public outreach exercises and advisories to educate people on the risks and the need for an orderly conduct by the attendees of an eventuality causes more problems. Poor health, hygiene and sanitation conditions at such huge gatherings accentuate the vulnerabilities. Inadequate infrastructure like access roads hinders and delays the movement of first responders and other rescue teams to the affected event location. Extreme climatic conditions prevalent at these event locations play a role to increase the number casualties. Casual attitude of people and the governmental agencies towards safety and security in general, has always been an enhancing factor of occurrences of such calamities. Noncompliance to the laid down rules and regulations for the conduct of such events and corrupt regulatory bodies have often resulted in catastrophic results. Inadequate and dispersed disaster response mechanisms result in delayed and diminished rescue and relief operations.

A Nightmare

The areas where such big events occur are not well defined and bounded. Some of the religious events, especially the events related to the immersion of Hindu idols during festival seasons across India and bathing by millions of people in the holy rivers during the Kumbh and other events, are widely spread over hundreds of square kilometers and to multiple locations all over the country. Access control of such large areas is never possible. Preventive security measures like scanning, screening and deployment of CBR sensors isimpossible as they require huge resources to install and to monitor. Hygiene and sanitation arrangements to cater for millions of people attending these events would be a gigantic task and has always been short of requirements. Millions of people attending these events need to be immunized from possible diseases. Thousands of security personnel would be required to be deployed for ensuring safe conduct and passage of these events. Most of the political rallies especially during elections attract large number of supporters and ensuring security at such politically charged events has always been a night mare to the security agencies.

Conclusion

CBRN attacks pose a far greater potential to cause catastrophic consequences. Consequently, attention must be paid to the security of dangerous CBRN materials, weapons, and technologies through: Anticipating emerging threats – Identify and understand potentially dangerous actors, technologies, and materials; Control access to CBRN materials – prevent terrorists and other malicious actors from gaining access to dangerous CBRN materials, weapons, and technologies; Control movement of CBRN Materials – Prevent the illicit movement of dangerous CBRN materials, weapons, and technologies; and Protect against hostile use of CBRN material – Identify the presence of, effectively locate, interdict, disable, attribute, or prevent the hostile use of CBRN material.

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Col. Naidu Gade is a civil engineer and a management & security professional, with 40 years of rich experience in the field of Combat Engineering, CBRNe Defence and Security & Disaster Management. He is a qualified CBRN and EOD Specialist. As Chief CW Inspector at OPCW, he led teams of international professionals on a large number of verification missions to various member countries, to verify the inventory of Chemical Weapons and monitor their destruction. Currently he is Chief Consultant – CBRNe Security and Disaster Management with ‘CBRNe Secure India’ a ‘platform for bringing in awareness in the general public, government and corporate entities on the threats arising from the use of CBRNe material and their disastrous consequences. He is also the Technical Consultant for Bluecher GmbH, Germany – World leaders in CBRN Individual Protection Technologies.