Archive for February 6th, 2019

Indian Coast Guard (ICG) – Genesis and Early Days

February 6, 2019

An Article on Indian Coast Guard received on a Navy Veterans Forum (Author – Navy Veteran Cdr Carl H Gomes)

Ahoy,

The Indian Coast Guard is celebrating its *42nd anniversary today the February 1, 2019*. From a modest beginning of *just 7 ships in 1978*, the service has witnessed *phenomenal and humongous Growth*, and today it is well recognized both nationally and internationally. We salute the Indian Coast Guard personnel, the *protectors of India’s maritime interests on Indian Coast Guard Day*.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) which is an armed force of India protects India’s maritime interests and *enforces maritime law, with jurisdiction over the territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone*. The Indian Coast Guard was formally established on 18 August 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 of the Parliament of India as an independent Armed force of India. It operates under the Ministry of Defence.

The Coast Guard works in *close cooperation with the Indian Navy, the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Revenue (Customs) and the Central and State police forces*.

The establishment of the Indian Coast Guard was first *proposed by the Indian Navy to provide non-military maritime services to the nation*. In the 1960s, sea-borne smuggling of goods was threatening India’s domestic economy. The Indian Customs Department frequently called upon the Indian Navy for assistance with patrol and interception in the anti-smuggling effort.

The discovery of oil off Bombay High further *emphasised the need for a maritime law enforcement and protection service*. The Rustamji Committee set up in 1974 submitted its recommendation for the establishment of the Indian Coast Guard under the Ministry of Defence on 31 July 1975. Bureaucratic wrangling followed, with the Cabinet Secretary making a recommendation to place the service under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi overruled the Cabinet Secretary and decided to accept the original recommendation of the Rustamji Committee to place the service under the Ministry of Defence.

An interim Indian Coast Guard came into *being on 1 February 1977, equipped with two small corvettes and five patrol boats transferred from the Navy*. The duties and functions of the service were formally defined in the Coast Guard Act, which was passed by India’s parliament on 18 August 1978 and came into immediate effect.

*Vice Admiral V A Kamath was appointed the founding Director-General*. Prime Minister Morarji Desai inspected the Guard of Honour at the service’s inauguration. Vice Admiral Kamath proposed a five-year plan to develop the ICG into a potent force by 1984, but the full potential of this plan was not immediately realised due to an economic resource crunch.

One of the historic operational successes of the ICG *occurred in October 1999, with the recapture at high seas of a Panamanian-registered Japanese cargo ship, MV Alondra Rainbow*, hijacked off Indonesia. Her crew were rescued off Phuket, Thailand. The ship had been repainted as MV Mega Rama, and was spotted off Kochi, heading towards Pakistan. She was chased by *ICGS Tarabai and INS Prahar (K98) of the Indian Navy*, and apprehended. It was the first successful prosecution of armed pirates in over a century.

When I did the staff course at DSSC in 1980, my syndicate (I was syndicate leader) was given a project and we had to make a presentation to the college on the Indian Coast Guard. We staged a mock conference to the PM to highlight the role of the coast guard. It was a hit and we had the audience in stitches a couple of times. That was the first and only time I got to wear a Vice Admiral’s shoulder tabs – for about an hour only. The force was only about two years old at that time.

May God Bless the protectors of our maritime borders and keep them out of harm’s way .

*You have come a long way, Baby*.

Aye,

*Carl H Gomes*.

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