Govt initiates steps to strengthen BSF

R Dutta Choudhury

Guwahati, Sep 1 : With threat from the anti-India forces based in the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan growing with every passing year, the Government of India has initiated steps to strengthen the Border Security Force (BSF) to increase vigil along the international borders to prevent entry of elements of such groups from sneaking into the country. BSF sources said that as a part of the exercise to strengthen the border guarding force, new weapons are being introduced and efforts are on to introduce modern gadgets, which would act as force multipliers and result in considerable improvement of border management. Sources revealed that the 7.62 mm series of weapons are being gradually replaced with 5.56 mm series of weapons. The 5.56 mm series of weapons are easier to manoeuver and are much more accurate than the old weapons, sources revealed. Moreover, night vision devices, night goggles, boats and new vehicles are being introduced in a phased manner, which improved the performance of the force considerably.

Sources said that the strength of the border guarding force is also being increased gradually. Giving an account of the steps taken so far to increase the strength of the force, sources said that about 50 battalions of the BSF were raised between the period from 1986 to 1990 and 150 companies were raised during 2002 and 2003. The Government of India has now sanctioned raising of 29 new battalions under a five year expansion plan, which would increase vigil along the international border and the distance between the border outposts would be reduced.

Commenting on the situation in regards to guarding the international border with Bangladesh in the Assam-Meghalaya sector, sources said that the entire border is considered vulnerable. However, the unfenced border in Meghalaya and the riverine international border of more than 47 kilometres in Dhubri district of Assam are considered most vulnerable. The BSF personnel are doing their best to keep close watch on the entire border, particularly in the vulnerable areas through area domination, sources added.

Commenting on the problems faced by the BSF in the Assam-Meghalaya sector, BSF sources said that the riverine border is a cause of concern as the smugglers try to use the same frequently and the Government of Bangladesh is yet to grant permission to bring in floating Border outposts through its territory. Sources said that a number of BOPs of the BSF located in the chars along the international boundary get submerged during the rainy season, forcing the men of the force to abandon the same and set up temporary BOPs on boats. However, sources admitted that there is no solution to this problem and the men in uniform are forced to live with the problem in the interest of guarding the borders of the country.

The failure of the authorities concerned to issue identity cards to Indian citizens living near the international boundary and lack of presence of administration in the chars located along the international border are some other worries of the BSF as because of ethnic similarity of the people living on both sides of the international border, it is impossible to detect who is an Indian national and who is not once a person manages to sneak into India. It may be mentioned here that the BSF is also calling for creation of a second line of defence for proper border management.

On the problems faced by the force in Meghalaya, sources said that slow pace of fencing the international border is a major cause of concern as vast areas along the border are still open and the Government of Meghalaya is yet to grant permission to construct fencing in a stretch of more than 130 kilometres along the border. Poor infrastructure like roads leading to the border often restricts the movement of the personnel of the force, while the mountainous terrain, thick forest, attacks by elephant herds, etc, particularly in Tura sector, also added to the problems of the BSF. Frequent outbreak of malaria also takes its toll on the men of the force in Tura sector, sources added.