Amidst the political tussle over the order by the Home Ministry to give more powers to the BSF, experts associated with the security forces have mixed opinions on this. While a former DGP from Punjab feels that the Border Security Force (BSF) is well equipped to deal with new threats such as drones with ease, a former BSF ADG said it would help the organization fulfill its “primary mandate” of border security. will remove it.
According to a new gazette notification dated October 11, BSF officers can now conduct searches, seizures, arrests like their police counterparts in the border states of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam at depths of 50 km. Earlier the extent of jurisdiction for these states was 15 km. While Assam has welcomed the Centre’s move, Punjab and West Bengal have condemned the move, calling it an attack on the “federal structure”.
Interestingly, even with a police background, former Punjab DGP Shashi Kant told News18 that the BSF should have the power to seize drones coming into Indian territory.
“We (Punjab Police) have worked in intelligence agencies and other central government forces. The drones that are coming now have a limited range. They are carrying arms and ammunition and have been dropped inside. So, generally, they can travel up to a maximum of 40 to 50 km, not more than that. For that, the BSF should have the power to seize them,” Shashi Kant said.
“However, he also said that political parties were in the habit of playing politics on such matters as elections were near,” the former DGP said. “BSF was always there. On some occasions, it was also for internal security duties; not me. Looks like there will be a problem. Due to misunderstanding it has become a political issue.”
Shashi Kant also said that the problem is that elections will be held in Punjab in a few months. Therefore, everyone wanted to derive “political advantage” from the situation, he said.
Former BSF ADG SK Sood said that the BSF has been given powers keeping in view the population and police force of the area. He said the move would distract the force from performing its primary duty of guarding the border.
“The BSF in Rajasthan and Gujarat had an 80km-radius from the border decades ago because there were hardly any police, and the population was small. But this was not an issue in Punjab, so the BSF had 15 km. I think this move will distract the force, which is already facing shortage of staff, from performing its duty. It is okay to give authority to BSF, but border security is our primary command and we should stick to that.”
On the issue of drones, Sood said that since these threats have come from across the border, the primary task of the BSF should be to strengthen the border rather than wielding powers like search, seizure and arrest.