BSF director general (DG) Pankaj Kumar Singh on Tuesday said that the “demographic balance” has been upset in border-states like Assam and West Bengal over a period of time and that was probably the reason that the Centre recently extended the force’s jurisdiction.
Photograph: Shilpa Thakur/ANI Photo
Rejecting allegations that the October notification of the Union home ministry (that expanded its jurisdiction to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a larger 50 km stretch from the international border in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab as compared to the earlier 15 km) interfered with local policing, he said that the BSF was not trying to “act as a parallel police” and the powers to investigate and file charge sheets continue to remain with the state.
“Over a period of time, you must have observed whether it is Assam or West Bengal, the demographic balance has been upset to a great degree…it has changed for whatever reasons. It has changed and there have been agitations in certain states and there have been many many times revolts because of these reasons…even the voter pattern has changed in certain districts neighbouring borders.”
“So, the government probably thought that in its vision that the BSF jurisdiction is changed from 15 km to 50 km and maybe now it can help and support and supplement the state police in catching hold of the infiltrators,” Singh told reporters here on the eve of the 57th Raising Day of the force.
He said the new move will also help the BSF and state police in effectively curbing trans-border crimes like smuggling of narcotics and weapons among others.
The Border Security Force (BSF) guards over 6,300 km of the Indian fronts with Pakistan on the west and Bangladesh on the east of the country.
The DG said that the force has dome a survey in some border villages that found that there is a “definite” demographic change.
He said the process of implementing the new notification was a “step-by-step” process like the BSF formations finalising the 50 kms distance from the border adding that “in times to come we have to see whether we need to establish (new) posts to have some backup.”
Singh asserted there was “no concept of BSF trying to intrude into local police functioning or trying to act as parallel police.”
There is no problem at all, we work in tandem with local police, he said.
The notifications, he said, issued by the central government were essentially in the context of the The Passports Act and the Passport (entry into India) Act with the earlier dealing with people going out of the country and the latter with the people entering into the country.
He said the government “standardised” the 50 km area from the border in all border states manned by BSF so that “forces can easily move from one theatre to the other.”
The Union home ministry had issued a notification in this context on October 11 amending a July, 2014 enabling provision for the BSF personnel and officers while they operate in the border areas.
While in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam the BSF jurisdiction was enhanced from the earlier 15 km to 50 km in Gujarat, that shares border with Pakistan, the same limit has been reduced from 80 km to 50 km while in Rajasthan the limit has been kept unchanged at 50 km.
The issue courted controversy as opposition ruled Punjab and West Bengal denounced the move and their respective assemblies moved resolutions against this decision of the Unin government.
The BSF has strength of about 2.65 lakh personnel at present and it was raised on December 1, 1965. It has 192 operational battalions at present and is the country’s largest border guarding force with ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles being the other three.