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Drop in border death toll: BSF

Agartala, June 20: The use of “non-lethal” weapons along Indo-Bangla border has brought down the death toll in cases of trans-border transgressions has come down to 12 from 100 in the past year, the BSF has claimed.

“We have stopped using sophisticated and lethal weapons over the past few years and this has resulted in a sharp decline in deaths in border-related incidents,” said BSF special director-general (Eastern Command), Banshi Dhar Sharma, today.

During an interaction with reporters today at Shalbagan, headquarters of BSF’s Tripura frontier, 7km north of Agartala, Sharma said the BSF and its counterpart, the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) now have the best of relations and a consultative mechanism between the two forces was functioning smoothly. India and Bangla-desh share a 4,095km border, 30 per cent of which is riverine.

Sharma, who inaugurated a composite border outpost in Sonamura subdivision of Sipahijala district and later opened a health camp at the Shalbagar headquarters of the BSF here, said the BSF has proposed setting up of 64 border haats (markets) along the Indo-Bangla border. “Out of the 64 border haats proposed to be set up, 32 will be in Bengal, 22 in Meghalaya, four each in Tripura and Mizoram and two in Assam; two border haats are already functional in Meghalaya,” said Sharma.

He said opening of border haats would facilitate higher volume of trade and commerce, leading to economic empowerment of people on both sides. “Greater business relations between people strengthen bonds of unity and cement understanding; it is naturally expected that higher level of trade and commerce between India and Bangladesh will further improve relations between the two countries,” said Sharma.

On the presence of rebels from the Northeast on Bangladesh soil, Sharma said 45 camps still exist. “But the BGB is positive about dismantling the camps though its deployment level in areas close to the Northeast is not enough; complying with our request, the BGB is further increasing its level of deployment in areas where there is presence of militants for a major offensive,” said Sharma.

“I spoke to BGB chief Maj. Gen. Aziz Ahmed today and discussed border-related issues and he responded positively; The BGB is also raising new battalions for deployment along the border with northeastern states of India,” said Sharma, adding that to improve relations between the bordering people of the two countries, the BSF is conducting more civic action programmes, including cultural and health-related events.

On non-completion of barbed-wire fencing along the border and installation of floodlights, Sharma said funds crisis, land acquisition, terrain-related issues, riverine and low-lying areas, population residing within 150 yards of the border led to delay in completion of fencing, floodlighting and border roads.

Sharma also reviewed the security situation along the boundary during a meeting with top officials, sector and battalion commanders today after visiting Akhaura border near here in the wake of recent incidents along it.

On June 6, in a clash between BSF jawans and local people, one BSF trooper Sandip Kumar, 28, and a civilian, Ismail Mia, 70, were killed at Ramnagar, 3km southwest of Agartala town.

The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

while the BSF has ordered a “commandant level” investigation.