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Bengal land curtain parts a bit for BSF post

- Shinde and Mamata steer clear of thorny statements in public
Shinde with Mamata at Frasergunj on Monday. Picture by Amit Datta

Frasergunj (South 24-Parganas), Feb. 25: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today assured Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the state government would provide land to the Border Security Force (BSF) for setting up border outposts.

Each outpost should not require more than two to four acres and such security-related allotments are routine. But in Bengal, no land allocation can be taken for granted. The BSF was compelled last month to drop plans for a third frontier — a cluster of battalions in charge of a particular border belt spread over multiple districts — in Bengal after the state government was unable to provide 100 acres.

This time, the state government did not demur, apparently because it did not want to be seen as lax on security issues, especially against the backdrop of the Hyderabad blasts.

Shinde and Mamata also reciprocated each other by steering clear of controversial statements on two other touchy issues: law and order in Bengal and the state government’s stand on a national centre to combat terrorism.

A fresh controversy over land at this juncture and any terror trail coursing its way through Bangladesh and Bengal would have given another handle to target the state government ahead of the panchayat polls, sources said.

Besides, contiguous land is not required for the 50 outposts, which makes allotment far easier than finding a large tract — something the BSF had wanted for the now-abandoned frontier plan in Malda.

“The chief minister has assured us about providing land to the BSF for the border outposts. The process will start immediately,” Shinde said before leaving for Sagar Islands this afternoon. Shinde and Mamata, who were in Frasergunj and adjoining Bakkhali to visit border islands in the Sundarbans, held a meeting.

According to the BSF additional director-general (east), B.D. Sharma, the Union home ministry had sanctioned 50 border outposts across Bengal’s international border. “We are now awaiting the allotment of land by the state government,” Sharma said.

The home ministry had been in touch with the state government, requesting for land for the outposts. Junior home minister Jitin Prasada had raised the issue with Mamata during a meeting at Writers’ Buildings on September 13, last year.

Trinamul sources said Mamata’s assurance of support to the home ministry was aimed at securing the border with Bangladesh, especially after the recent explosions in the south.

The sources said Shinde had mentioned the blasts during today’s discussions with Mamata and emphasised that the inability to set up the border outposts would compromise national security, especially since Bengal’s border with Bangladesh is known to be porous.

“Also, after state Congress leaders submitted a report to Shinde on the law and order situation in Bengal during his visit to the party office yesterday, our leader did not want to be seen as coming in the way of securing the state,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

Shinde stuck to his ministerial role and steered clear of commenting on law and order. “Law and order is a state subject. I have not received any official reports. I cannot comment,” Shinde said, with the chief minister by his side.

Trinamul leaders said they were happy that the Union home minister did not comment on the law and order situation. Although central ministers usually do not comment on state subjects, Trinamul was wary this time because of the murder of a police officer, the spate of attacks on some officials on the charge of not opposing last week’s bandh and the assault on CPM veteran Abdur Rezzak Mollah.

Shinde tiptoed around another sensitive issue, too. On the proposed national counter-terrorism centre (NCTC), which had stirred concerns among Mamata and some other chief ministers, Shinde said: “She has never opposed the NCTC. All of us are committed to fighting against terrorism. She has some areas of concern. Other chief ministers have their objections, too. We want unanimity on this. We have to sit together with everyone and decide,” Shinde said. Mamata did not comment.

From the time Shinde arrived at Frasergunj till his departure in the afternoon, Mamata was with him.


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